Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Is that surprising to you? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always correct. Your mind, you believe, is a static object: it only changes as a result of damage or trauma. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve probably heard of the concept that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. Vision is the most popular instance: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by loss of hearing. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have hearing loss, has been shown by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even mild hearing loss can have an effect on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all working. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. 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 establishing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its general architecture. Instead of being devoted to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be committed to vision. The brain gives more power and space to the senses that are offering the most information.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to moderate hearing loss too.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to lead to significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Instead, they simply seem to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children certainly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is often a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being changed by hearing loss?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Other evidence has associated untreated hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while it’s not certain whether the other senses are modified by hearing loss we are sure it alters the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from people across the US.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That loss of hearing can have such a significant effect on the brain is more than simple trivial information. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are inherently connected.
When hearing loss develops, there are usually considerable and recognizable mental health impacts. 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 protect your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your hearing loss will physically change your brain (including your age, older brains tend to firm up that structure and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But there’s no doubt that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.