Your brain develops differently than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we usually have false ideas about brain development. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes due to injury or trauma. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become more powerful. The popular example is always vision: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because loss of hearing, 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 with children.
CT scans and other studies of children who have hearing loss show that their brains physically change their structures, 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 slight hearing loss.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A specific amount of brainpower is dedicated to each sense when they are all working. A specific amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. Much of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely pliable) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Established literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its overall structure. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be committed to vision. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Mild to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Causes Modifications
Children who suffer from mild to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain alterations won’t produce superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adjust to hearing loss seems to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The evidence that hearing loss can alter the brains of children certainly has implications beyond childhood. The great 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 altered by hearing loss?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Other evidence has linked neglected hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though it’s not certain if the other senses are improved by hearing loss we do know it alters the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the country.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than superficial insight that hearing loss can have such an important effect on the brain. It calls attention to all of the essential and inherent connections between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and considerable mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. Being informed of those effects can help you prepare for them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take action to preserve your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on many factors (including how old you are, older brains tend to firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.