When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it normally would. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we normally think about brains in the wrong way. You might think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
You’ve probably heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will become more powerful to compensate. Vision is the most well known example: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but like all good myths, there may be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. It’s open to question how much this holds true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
CT scans and other studies of children who have hearing loss reveal that their brains physically alter their structures, changing the hearing centers of the brain to visual centers.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that the brain’s architecture can be effected by even mild loss of hearing.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A specific amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all functioning. A specific 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 formed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain altered its general architecture. The space that would usually be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. The brain gives more power and space to the senses that are delivering the most input.
Changes With Mild to Medium Hearing Loss
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium loss of hearing too.
These brain alterations won’t result in superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adjust to loss of hearing seems to be a more practical interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching consequences. Hearing loss is frequently a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by hearing loss?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though it’s not certain whether the other senses are enhanced by hearing loss we are sure it modifies the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such a significant influence on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.
When hearing loss develops, there are often considerable and noticeable mental health impacts. Being conscious of those effects can help you be prepared for them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically change your brain (including how old you are, older brains commonly firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.