Your brain develops differently than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Does that surprise you? That’s because we usually have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But the truth is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve most likely heard of the idea that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. Vision is the most popular example: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there might be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by hearing loss. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other research on children with hearing loss demonstrate that their brains physically change their structures, changing 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 loss of hearing can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are functioning, the brain dedicates a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. A certain amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly flexible) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain changed its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. The space that would in most cases be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Changes With Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing
Children who suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain modifications won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that hearing loss can change the brains of children certainly has ramifications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is frequently a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by hearing loss?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while it’s not certain whether the other senses are modified by hearing loss we do know it modifies the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
It’s more than trivial information that loss of hearing can have such a major influence on the brain. It calls attention to all of the essential and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health issues when loss of hearing develops. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically alter your brain ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a tougher time creating new neural pathways). 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 how old you are.