Use it or lose it, we are all familiar with this adage. It is true for the body and true for the brain.
Without sufficient sensory stimulation a child’s brain does not develop as it should. Nor does an adult brain maintain full functionality as a result of negative plasticity. The auditory system thrives with the right input and suffers if deprived of sound or overstimulated by noise.
A new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray mater atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech.
Hearing aids can be an effective intervention. Another approach to consider is music listening therapy. This is neuroauditory training to improve sound brain fitness in part by stimulating the frequency bands where the deficits exist with specially modified music. There has been good success helping people with mild hearing loss through the use of The Listening Program®. In many cases listeners no longer require hearing aids, because they trained their brain to better understand what it hears (auditory processing).
Many audiologists will share that when patients with mild hearing loss wear hearing aids for a period of time that their auditory discrimination improves on tests without the hearing aids. This is due to the brain now being able to perceive the auditory signal through sound amplification. The increased signal is enough to improve brain processing. In my opinion, a course of The Listening Program should be considered prior to using hearing aids in cases of mild hearing loss, and definitely needs to be used along with hearing aids. This is something proactive that can be done to stimulate the brain so people can continue to enjoy the richness that exists within the sounds of our loved ones voices, music, and nature.
Read more about this study published in the Journal of Neuroscience here.