When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little bit differently than it otherwise might. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we commonly think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static thing: it only changes due to damage or trauma. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become stronger. Vision is the most well known instance: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
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 the brain’s architecture can be impacted by even moderate loss of hearing.
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 use a specific 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.
Established literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its general architecture. The space that would normally be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. The brain gives more power and space to the senses that are delivering the most input.
Modifications With Mild to Medium Hearing Loss
Children who have mild to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain alterations won’t result in superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Instead, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The change in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. Hearing loss is normally 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 altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Other evidence has associated untreated hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So although we haven’t confirmed hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from individuals across the US.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That hearing loss can have such a substantial influence on the brain is more than simple superficial information. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are inherently connected.
When loss of hearing develops, there are often considerable and noticeable mental health effects. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be mindful of them. And being prepared will help you take the appropriate steps to maintain your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time establishing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.