When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it otherwise might. Shocked? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always correct. You might think that only damage or trauma can alter your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become more powerful. Vision is the most popular example: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there could be a nugget of truth somewhere in there. 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.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from loss of hearing, has been shown by CT scans to change, 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 even minor hearing loss can have an impact on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all functioning. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a certain amount of brain space. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Established literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its general structure. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Triggers Modifications
Children who have mild to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Instead, they simply seem to help individuals adapt 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 an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that most people who suffer from it are adults. Is hearing loss changing their brains, too?
Some evidence indicates that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though it’s not certain if the other senses are improved by hearing loss we do know it changes the brain.
Families from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
It’s more than superficial insight that loss of hearing can have such a major impact on the brain. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are inherently linked.
When loss of hearing develops, there are often substantial and recognizable mental health impacts. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take the appropriate steps to protect your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a tougher time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.