When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise would. Surprised? That’s because we often have false ideas about brain development. You may think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become more powerful. Vision is the most popular instance: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
There may be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from hearing loss, has been shown by CT scans to change, transforming the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that the brain’s architecture can be effected by even minor loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are working, the brain devotes a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. A certain amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its overall structure. The space that would usually be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most input.
Modifications With Minor to Medium Hearing Loss
Children who have minor to moderate hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
Make no mistake, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in significant behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping individuals adjust to loss of hearing seems to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The alteration in the brains of children certainly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is often a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does impact the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
It’s more than superficial insight that loss of hearing can have such an important influence on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are intrinsically connected.
When loss of hearing develops, there are commonly substantial and noticeable mental health impacts. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take steps to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your loss of hearing will physically change your brain ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a harder time developing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter what your age.