Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Is that surprising to you? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always accurate. You may think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But the reality is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get stronger. The popular example is always vision: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
There may be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. It’s open to debate how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing 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 mild loss of hearing.
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. A lot of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely flexible) 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 devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are providing the most input.
Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with minor to medium loss of hearing too.
These brain changes won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Rather, they simply appear to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Loss of hearing is frequently an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that most people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while it’s not certain if the other senses are modified by hearing loss we are sure it changes the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the US.
Your Overall Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial information that hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent links between your senses and your brain.
There can be noticeable and considerable mental health issues when loss of hearing develops. Being aware of those impacts can help you be prepared for them. And being prepared will help you take action to preserve your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically modify your brain (including how old you are, older brains usually firm up that structure and new neural pathways are more difficult to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how serious your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.