When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little bit differently than it normally would. Surprised? That’s because we typically think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes because of trauma or injury. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become more powerful. Vision is the most well known example: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been proven scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by loss of hearing. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other studies of children who have hearing loss show that their brains physically alter 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 influenced by even moderate hearing loss.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A certain amount of brainpower is dedicated to each sense when they are all working. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been proven that the brain modified its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium loss of hearing also.
These brain alterations won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adjust to hearing loss appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The evidence that hearing loss can alter the brains of children definitely has repercussions beyond childhood. The vast majority of people living with hearing loss are adults, and the hearing loss itself is frequently a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by hearing loss?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So while we haven’t confirmed hearing loss improves your other senses, it does affect the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the country.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial information that loss of hearing can have such a significant effect on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and intrinsic connections between your senses and your brain.
When loss of hearing develops, there are usually substantial and noticeable mental health effects. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And being prepared will help you take action to protect your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on many factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time establishing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how extreme your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.