When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little bit differently than it otherwise would. Shocked? That’s because we usually think about brains in the wrong way. You may think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
You’ve likely heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. The popular example is usually vision: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there might be a nugget 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 occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other studies of children who have hearing loss reveal 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 influenced by even slight hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are working, the brain devotes a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been verified that the brain changed its architecture in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing
Children who have mild to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Instead, they simply appear to help people adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The change in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is usually a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Some research suggests that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in particular 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 enhanced by hearing loss we are sure it alters the brain.
Families from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such a substantial influence on the brain. It calls attention to all of the relevant and intrinsic relationships between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And being prepared will help you take action to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your loss of hearing will physically modify your brain (including your age, older brains usually firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.