When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it normally would. Surprised? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always accurate. Your mind, you believe, is a static thing: it only changes as a result of trauma or injury. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve likely 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 well known instance: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but like all good myths, there may be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. 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 extrapolate to adults is uncertain.
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 minor 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. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
Conventional literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain altered its general structure. The space that would in most cases be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Mild to Medium Hearing Loss Also Causes Modifications
Children who have mild to medium loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain alterations won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Alternatively, they simply appear to help individuals adapt to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children definitely has far reaching repercussions. Loss of hearing is commonly a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while 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 individuals across the US.
Your General Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such an important effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically connected.
When hearing loss develops, there are often significant and obvious mental health impacts. Being conscious of those impacts can help you be prepared for them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically alter your brain ((age is a major factor because older brains have a more difficult time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.