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Woman with hearing loss happy to have her freedom and independence while riding in a convertible.

Do you recall when you got your first car? The feeling of freedom was unmatched. It was your choice when and where you went and with who you hung out with. Many people who have hearing loss have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.

Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why having hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be explained as follows: You’re on the way to your job, following the same route you always do. As you go to make that first right you discover that there is a road-block. How would you react? Do you just give up and go home? Unless you’re looking for an excuse not to go to work, probably not. Seeking out another route is more than likely what you would choose to do. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

The exact same process happens inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Learning new abilities like juggling, or learning a brand new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be just as good at making you forget what you know.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways inside of your brain will immediately start to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain function explains the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.

If you have loss of hearing, the areas of your brain in charge of functions, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to understand speech.

So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. And even more significant is the reality that your brain may already be starting to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your loss of hearing worse, but it also enhances the performance of hearing aids. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of the brain associated with loss of hearing.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids lessened cognitive decline in people with hearing loss. The study, titled Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. What the researchers discovered was that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, people that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that understanding: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it gets and the need at hand.”

Having a Youthful Brain

To put it briefly, the brain is powerful and can change itself significantly no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that simply using hearing aids can stop or minimize this decline.

Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function regardless of any health conditions by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new tasks, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.

To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Those who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to remain active and independent, invest in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!

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