Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we usually think about brains in the wrong way. You may think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become stronger. Vision is the most well known example: as you begin to lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but like all good myths, there could be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to question how much this holds true in adults, but we know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have hearing loss, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, changing the hearing centers of the brain to visual centers.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that the brain’s architecture can be impacted by even moderate loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are working, the brain devotes a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. When your young, your brain is extremely flexible 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 loss of hearing, the brain modified its general structure. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual perception. The brain devotes more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with mild to moderate loss of hearing also.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to cause significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Alternatively, they simply seem to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is commonly a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while it’s not certain whether the other senses are improved by hearing loss we do know it modifies the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the US.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such a major effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are intrinsically linked.
When hearing loss develops, there are often considerable and obvious mental health impacts. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And being prepared will help you take the appropriate steps to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically change your brain (including your age, older brains commonly firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.