When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise might. Is that surprising to 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 the truth is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. The well-known example is usually vision: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there may be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does change 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 who have hearing loss demonstrate 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 mild loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A certain amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all functioning. A specific amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain changed its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be devoted to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are providing the most information.
Modifications With Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing
Children who suffer from mild to medium loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t cause superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adjust to loss of hearing seems to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching consequences. The vast majority of individuals dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is often a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are enhanced by hearing loss we do know it alters the brain.
Families from around the US have anecdotally backed this up.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
That hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain is more than simple superficial information. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are inherently connected.
There can be noticeable and substantial mental health issues when loss of hearing develops. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain 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 tougher time developing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter what your age.