Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Does that surprise you? That’s because we usually think about brains in the wrong way. You might think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become stronger. Vision is the most well known instance: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there might be a nugget of truth somewhere in there. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to question how much this is true in adults, but we know it’s true with children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been shown by CT scans to change, changing the hearing centers of the brain to visual centers.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even mild loss of hearing can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are functioning, the brain devotes a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain space. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly pliable) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its general architecture. Instead of being committed to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Changes With Minor to Medium Hearing Loss
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with minor to moderate loss of hearing also.
Make no mistake, these changes in the brain aren’t going to translate into significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Instead, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that loss of hearing can change the brains of children definitely has ramifications beyond childhood. Hearing loss is normally a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
Individuals from around the US have anecdotally borne this out.
Your Overall Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such a substantial effect on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent connections between your senses and your brain.
There can be noticeable and significant mental health issues when hearing loss develops. Being informed of those effects can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take action to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your hearing loss will physically alter your brain ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a harder time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.