Brain plasticity

May 28, 2012 by Simon Dufort

Lobe, plasticité cérébrale.jpg

You have undoubtedly already heard of books or memory games that are bursting with various problems to test our memories and mental skills. They engage our brain’s ability to maintain its malleability. This phenomenon is referred to as brain plasticity. In essence, our central nervous system is perpetually reorganizing itself regardless of our age.

The idea is simple: the more stimuli the brain receives, the more it reorganizes itself to better manage those stimuli. A good example of this is how sometimes the blind develop a sense of touch or hearing that is stronger than the average person’s. Many scientific experiments and studies have shown this observation to be true. Some researchers even believe that brain plastic-ity could be at the centre of slowing down symptoms of Alzheimer disease in some subjects, as if the brain were compensating for having the disease. In other words, the brain continuously remodels itself.

Brain plasticity is extremely important to a successful hearing aid fitting; it should definitely not be ignored. Put another way, you need to give yourself some time. Adapting to hearing aids is a process, not an innate ability.

Today, hearing aid miniaturization allows us to brush aside most pejorative stereotypes about the devices. The adaptation period remains essential to the success of a hearing aid fitting. People can take days or weeks to find their auditory markers and reorganize the processing of this new information by the various nerve endings. Your audioprosthetist and specialized educator will support you during this adaptation period. In addition, always keep in mind that time is a determining factor in this process, so give yourself a chance to see the positive changes over time.

Brain plasticity from another angle

It can work the other way too: a brain receiving a reduced quantity of information will slowly lose the ability to process that information. This phenomenon is referred to as sensory deprivation.

People who have been hearing-impaired and -without a hearing aid for several years will face a greater challenge during the period in which they are adapting to their hearing aid. Therefore, it is imperative to proceed with a hearing aid fitting as soon as hearing loss is diagnosed.

Considering that a person with hearing loss takes an average of seven years before consulting a professional, it is not surprising that the adaptation period will be longer.

Do not hesitate to consult an audioprosthetist at any Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinic for more information.

References:
– ARLINGER, S. “Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss−a review,” International Journal of Audiology (2003); 42(2), 17-20.
– PHILIBERT, B., et al. “The auditory acclimatization effect in sensorineural hear-ing-impaired listeners: Evidence for functional plasticity,” Hearing Research (2005); 131-142.
– TREMBLAY, Jessica, MPA, Audiologist.
– “À la découverte de la plasticité cérébrale,” http://www.psychologies.com, page consulted on January 22, 2012.
– “Les personnes à risques d’Alzheimer peuvent désormais espérer retarder l’apparition des premiers symtômes,” http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca, page consulted on January 22, 2012.