Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because we typically think about brains in the wrong way. You may think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But the reality is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others get more powerful. The popular example is usually vision: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, 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 hearing loss. It’s open to debate how much this holds true in adults, but we know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other studies of children who have loss of hearing demonstrate that their brains physically change their structures, changing the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to instead be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor hearing loss can have an effect on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all working. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. When your young, your brain is extremely flexible and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been verified that the brain altered its architecture in children with high degrees of hearing loss. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are offering the most input.
Changes With Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
Children who suffer from mild to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more practical interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children definitely has far reaching repercussions. The great majority of people dealing with hearing loss are adults, and the hearing loss itself is frequently a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by hearing loss?
Some research suggests that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while we haven’t verified hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the US.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That loss of hearing can have such a major influence on the brain is more than basic superficial insight. It calls attention to all of the relevant and intrinsic links between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And being prepared will help you take the appropriate steps to maintain your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on several factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a harder time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.