Your brain develops differently than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Surprised? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always valid. Your mind, you believe, is a static object: it only changes as a result of injury or trauma. But the truth is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others get more powerful. Vision is the most popular example: as you lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
There may be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by loss of hearing. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been shown by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A certain 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 utilize a specific amount of brain space. A lot 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.
Established literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its overall structure. The space that would in most cases be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Changes With Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with mild to medium hearing loss also.
These brain modifications won’t lead to superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Alternatively, they simply appear to help people adjust to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has ramifications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is frequently a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Is loss of hearing modifying their brains, as well?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while we haven’t confirmed hearing loss improves your other senses, it does affect the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
That hearing loss can have such a major effect on the brain is more than basic trivial information. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are inherently linked.
There can be noticeable and substantial mental health issues when hearing loss develops. Being mindful of those effects can help you be prepared for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors (including your age, older brains usually firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But you can be certain that untreated hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.