When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise might. Shocked? That’s because we usually think about brains in the wrong way. You might think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve most likely heard of the concept that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will grow more powerful in order to counterbalance. The popular example is usually vision: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste 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 changed by hearing loss. It’s open to question how much this holds true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing reveal that their brains physically change their structures, transforming 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 impacted by even mild hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are functioning, the brain devotes a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. A certain amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been proven that the brain altered its architecture in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that space in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Causes Changes
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium loss of hearing too.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Rather, they simply appear to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that loss of hearing can change the brains of children definitely has repercussions beyond childhood. Hearing loss is commonly a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by hearing loss?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though it’s not certain whether the other senses are modified by hearing loss we are sure it modifies the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the US.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain is more than basic superficial information. It calls attention to all of the relevant and intrinsic links between your brain and your senses.
When loss of hearing develops, there are commonly significant and recognizable mental health effects. Being aware of those impacts can help you be prepared for them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically alter your brain ((age is a major factor because older brains have a more difficult time developing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how extreme your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.