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Neuroplasticity: The New Frontier in Audiology

By Dennis A. Colucci, AuD

 

 

Neuroplasticity is powerful and relevant to patient care, especially when learning and memory are affected. It refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses, which are due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, and changes resulting from bodily injury. Neuroplastic changes in audiology drive a patient’s success with amplification and sound therapies.

 

A 25-year-old woman with complete left hemisphere brain injury at 1 1⁄2 years old is trained for successful speech communication and independent living as a result of reorganization in the remaining hemisphere. (J Med Life 2011;4[3]:291.) A long-term study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has shown that patients with hearing loss are at risk of developing dementia two to five times greater than those without hearing loss. (Arch Neurol 2011;68[2]:214.) These studies remind us that senses and functions such as hearing, vision, learning, and memory are tightly intertwined and dramatically affect one another.