When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise might. Surprised? That’s because we usually think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes because of damage or trauma. But the reality is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes 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.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this is true in adults, but we know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing demonstrate that their brains physically change their structures, changing the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to 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
When all five senses are working, the brain devotes a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a specific amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been proven that the brain changed its architecture in children with high degrees of hearing loss. The space that would in most cases be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Changes With Mild to Medium Hearing Loss
Children who suffer from mild to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to result in substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Helping individuals adapt to loss of hearing seems to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The change in the brains of children definitely has far reaching repercussions. Loss of hearing is frequently an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Is hearing loss altering their brains, too?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has associated untreated hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while it’s not certain whether the other senses are modified by hearing loss we are sure it alters the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That loss of hearing can have such a significant 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.
When loss of hearing develops, there are usually considerable and recognizable mental health impacts. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take action to maintain your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on many factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time developing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.