Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Does that surprise you? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always accurate. You might think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. The well-known example is always vision: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but like all good myths, there could be a nugget of truth somewhere in there. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by loss of hearing. It’s open to debate 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 shown by CT scans to change, 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 even mild hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a specific amount of brain space. A lot of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its overall architecture. The space that would normally be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Mild to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Triggers Modifications
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium loss of hearing too.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to produce substantial behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping people adapt to hearing loss appears to be a more practical interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children certainly has far reaching consequences. Loss of hearing is normally 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 evidence reveals that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does impact the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
That hearing loss can have such a significant influence on the brain is more than simple trivial insight. It calls attention to all of the relevant and inherent links between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health problems when hearing loss develops. 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 steps to preserve your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a more difficult time creating new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.