When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it normally might. Does that surprise you? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always correct. You may think that only damage or trauma can alter your brain. But the truth is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. Vision is the most popular instance: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there may be a sliver of truth somewhere in there. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by loss of hearing. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other research on children who have loss of hearing demonstrate 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 minor hearing loss.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are functioning, the brain devotes a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been verified that the brain modified its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are providing the most information.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with mild to moderate loss of hearing too.
Make no mistake, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to translate into substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Alternatively, they simply seem 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 ramifications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is commonly a result 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, as well?
Some research suggests that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are improved by hearing loss we do know it changes the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That loss of hearing can have such an enormous influence on the brain is more than basic trivial insight. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are inherently linked.
There can be noticeable and significant mental health problems when hearing loss develops. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And being prepared will help you take the appropriate steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your hearing loss will physically modify your brain ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a more difficult time developing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.