Your brain develops in a different way than it normally would if you’re born with hearing loss. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we usually have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the concept that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to counterbalance. Vision is the most popular instance: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. 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 apply this to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing demonstrate that their brains physically alter their structures, altering 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 moderate hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A specific amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all functioning. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a specific amount of brain power. Much of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely flexible) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been proven that the brain altered its architecture in children with high degrees of hearing loss. The space that would in most cases be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual perception. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Modifications With Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with minor to medium loss of hearing also.
These brain alterations won’t cause superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adjust to hearing loss appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The evidence that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has implications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is normally a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Some evidence suggests that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Other evidence has linked untreated hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are modified by hearing loss we do know it alters the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
Your General Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a major influence on the brain is more than basic trivial information. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically linked.
There can be noticeable and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take the appropriate steps to preserve your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors (including how old you are, older brains commonly firm up that structure and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter what your age.