When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise might. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we commonly have false ideas about brain development. You may think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But the reality is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. The popular example is usually vision: 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 scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there might be a sliver of truth somewhere in there. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by hearing loss. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have hearing loss, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, 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 hearing loss.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are functioning, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. A certain amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. 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 general architecture. The space that would in most cases be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual perception. The brain devotes more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most input.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
Children who suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t cause superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Instead, they simply seem to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The evidence that loss of hearing can change the brains of children definitely has ramifications beyond childhood. The vast majority of people dealing with hearing loss are adults, and the hearing loss in general is commonly a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss changing their brains, too?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are improved by hearing loss we do know it modifies the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from families across the US.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That loss of hearing can have such a substantial effect on the brain is more than simple trivial insight. It calls attention to all of the vital and intrinsic relationships between your brain and your senses.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health issues when loss of hearing develops. Being conscious of those effects can help you prepare for them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take action to protect your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors (including your age, older brains tend to firm up that structure and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.