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The Hearing Brain: Use it or Lose it!

February 5th, 2012 by qcurrie

The human brain is an amazing creation.  If you don’t think so, spend some time watching a 2 year old.  Watch them scan the room with their eyes, climb all over everything in sight, manipulate objects, and talk about it all.  It’s amazing!  You can almost hear the whirring sound of the brain drinking in all the information and learning like crazy.  Fortunately as we grow, the brain starts to switch gears.  The frantic pace of learning and discovery gives way to a more sustainable season.  We rely on our experiences and skills to help us enjoy life with more depth and complexity.  In short, the brain grows up and changes as we do.  As the brain matures it relies on human interaction to keep it healthy and engaged.  Human contact is extremely stimulating to the brain and human conversation is possibly the most complex and rich form of brain to brain contact that we engage in.  Hearing speech helps us to stay connected to others, keeps our brain stimulated and happy and ship shape.

So what happens if we can’t hear?  Well, one peculiar trait of the human brain is that it doesn’t like unused real estate.  When parts of your brain are no longer used because they’re not being stimulated those parts get re-assigned to do other things.  So as the expression goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  When you don’t use the hearing parts of the brain, the brain begins to start losing its ability to hear.  The longer you wait to do something about a hearing loss, the harder it will be to regain your former abilities.  When a hearing instrument is
employed after a long period of untreated hearing loss a physical change in the brain starts to reclaim those areas important for hearing but it can be a slow and frustrating process.

The good news is that you can make that change back to a healthy, happy, hearing brain if you are persistent and regular in your hearing instrument use.  Using your hearing instrument only occasionally does nothing.  In fact, it just sets up a negative cycle of failure:  the hearing instrument sounds different, your brain is out of practice, you don’t hear well, you experience frustration, you toss the hearing instruments in the drawer, you don’t get to practice listening, your brain is out of practice, etc etc.

So use it!  Give your brain a workout every day by keeping those hearing instruments on and engaging in a rich sound and speech filled life.  Your brain will thank you for it!

One Response to “The Hearing Brain: Use it or Lose it!”

  1. April 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm, Richard Ellis said:

    For an interesting discussion of how the brain reacts to external stimulus and “re-wires” itself to dedicate more “real estate” to various functions including hearing, see “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, (NY, Viking, 2007)

    Reply

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