When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it otherwise would. Does that surprise you? That’s because we typically have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
You’ve most likely heard of the notion that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to counterbalance. Vision is the most well known instance: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but as is the case with all good myths, there may 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 occurs in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is uncertain.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from hearing loss, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, changing the hearing centers of the brain to visual centers.
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 working. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a specific amount of brain space. A lot of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely pliable) 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 architecture. The space that would in most cases be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are providing the most information.
Mild to Medium Hearing Loss Also Triggers Changes
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with minor to medium hearing loss also.
These brain modifications won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Instead, they simply seem to help individuals adapt to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching consequences. The great majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is frequently a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is loss of hearing modifying their brains, as well?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t verified hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
Individuals from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That loss of hearing can have such an enormous influence on the brain is more than basic superficial information. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically connected.
There can be noticeable and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take action to preserve your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your hearing loss will physically change your brain (including your age, 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 severe your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.