When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it normally might. Does that surprise you? That’s because we commonly have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get more powerful. The well-known example is always vision: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this holds true in adults, but we know it’s true in children.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing demonstrate that their brains physically alter their structures, transforming 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 the brain’s architecture can be influenced by even moderate hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A specific amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all working. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a certain 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 developing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain modified its general architecture. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Mild to Medium Hearing Loss Also Triggers Modifications
Children who suffer from mild to medium 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 lead to significant behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Rather, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The change in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Hearing loss is normally an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means the majority of people who suffer from it are adults. Is loss of hearing changing their brains, too?
Some evidence indicates that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are enhanced by hearing loss we are sure it alters the brain.
Individuals from around the US have anecdotally backed this up.
Your General Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
That hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain is more than simple trivial information. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are inherently linked.
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 cognizant of them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take action to protect your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on many factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a tougher time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.