When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it normally might. Surprised? That’s because we typically think about brains in the wrong way. You may think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve probably heard of the notion that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful to counterbalance. Vision is the most popular instance: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been proven scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by loss of hearing. It’s open to question how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been shown by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to instead be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even mild hearing loss can have an effect on the brain’s architecture.
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 space. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely pliable) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
Established literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain changed its overall architecture. Instead of being committed to hearing, that space in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Modifications With Mild 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 changes in the brain aren’t going to produce significant behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping individuals adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The research that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children certainly has ramifications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is commonly a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people suffering from it are adults. Is hearing loss altering their brains, as well?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has associated untreated hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although we haven’t verified hearing loss improves your other senses, it does affect the brain.
People from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That hearing loss can have such a major effect on the brain is more than basic superficial information. It reminds us all of the essential and intrinsic links between your brain and your senses.
When hearing loss develops, there are usually substantial and obvious mental health effects. Being conscious of those effects can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to preserve your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors (including how old you are, older brains usually firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are more difficult to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how severe your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.