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

You will never forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that feeling of freedom. You could go where you wanted, when you wanted, with who you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.

Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by loss of hearing.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to react to changes can be explained as follows: You’re on the way to your job, following the same way you always do. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. How would you react? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Probably not unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to avoid going to work. You would most likely immediately seek an alternate way to go. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If the new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the same thing happens. New pathways are routed in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Perfecting new abilities like juggling, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical changes to the brain slowly adjust to match the new pathways. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new things, it can also be just as good at causing you to 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 your brain will immediately start to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.

The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources in your brain which are used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to understand speech.

So, if you are constantly asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already started. And even more important is the fact that your brain may already be starting to restructure.

Can Hearing Aids Help You

This ability of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also enhances the overall performance of hearing aids. You can really make the most of current hearing aid technology because of the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of your brain linked with hearing loss.

As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that having 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. The study showed that people with hearing loss had a higher rate of cognitive decline. However, people that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

The best part of this study is that we can verify what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will coordinate functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it is given. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Youthful Brain

In short, the brain is versatile and can change itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter 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 socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.

Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for those with hearing loss. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you remain active and independent. Don’t forget that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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