When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it normally might. Surprised? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always valid. You may think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. The popular example is usually vision: 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 proven scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other studies of children with hearing loss show that their brains physically alter their structures, altering the part of the brain normally 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 influenced by even slight hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all functioning. A certain amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. Much of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly pliable) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain changed its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. The space that would normally be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Triggers Modifications
Children who have minor to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to lead to substantial behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping individuals adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. The great majority of individuals 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. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t verified hearing loss improves your other senses, it does affect the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the country.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a major impact on the brain is more than simple trivial information. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.
When loss of hearing develops, there are usually significant and recognizable mental health effects. In order to 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.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on several factors (including your age, older brains commonly firm up that structure and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how extreme your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.