When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise would. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we typically have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will become more powerful to counterbalance. The well-known example is always vision: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
There may be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other studies of children with 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 even minor hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is dedicated to each sense when they are all functioning. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been proven that the brain changed its architecture in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. The brain gives more power and space to the senses that are providing the most information.
Changes With Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with minor to moderate hearing loss too.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to translate into significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Instead, they simply appear to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The change in the brains of children definitely has far reaching repercussions. Loss of hearing is commonly an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that most people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has linked untreated hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So although it’s not certain whether the other senses are modified by hearing loss we do know it modifies the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the US.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
It’s more than superficial insight that hearing loss can have such a major influence on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are inherently connected.
When hearing loss develops, there are often considerable and obvious mental health effects. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take action to maintain your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time establishing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.