When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise would. Does that surprise you? That’s because we commonly have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only damage or trauma can alter your brain. But the reality is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become stronger. Vision is the most popular instance: as you lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by hearing loss. It’s open to question how much this is the case in adults, but we do know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other studies of children who have hearing loss show 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 minor hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
Conventional literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain changed its general architecture. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Triggers Changes
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium hearing loss too.
These brain changes won’t produce superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Rather, they simply seem to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Loss of hearing is normally a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while it’s not certain if the other senses are improved by hearing loss we are sure it modifies the brain.
People from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than superficial information that hearing loss can have such a significant effect on the brain. It reminds us all of the vital and intrinsic relationships between your brain and your senses.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. Being aware of those impacts can help you prepare for them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take action to preserve your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a more difficult time creating new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.