When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it normally might. Surprised? That’s because we usually have false ideas about brain development. You may think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But the truth is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. Vision is the most well known example: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by hearing loss. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing show that their brains physically change their structures, changing the hearing centers of the brain to visual centers.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor loss of hearing can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A specific amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all functioning. 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 very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain changed its overall architecture. Instead of being devoted to hearing, that space in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are providing the most input.
Mild to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Causes Modifications
Children who suffer from mild to medium loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain alterations won’t cause superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adjust to loss of hearing appears to be a more practical interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The evidence that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has ramifications beyond childhood. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is usually a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is loss of hearing altering their brains, too?
Some research suggests that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has linked untreated hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
People from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That hearing loss can have such a significant influence on the brain is more than basic trivial insight. It calls attention to all of the essential and intrinsic relationships between your brain and your senses.
When hearing loss develops, there are commonly considerable and obvious mental health effects. Being mindful of those effects can help you prepare for them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take steps to preserve your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on several factors (including your age, older brains tend to firm up that structure and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But there’s no doubt that neglected hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter what your age.