Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Surprised? That’s because we usually have false ideas about brain development. You may think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are actually more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. The well-known example is always vision: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
There may be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by loss of hearing. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor loss of hearing 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 functioning. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a specific amount of brain space. A lot of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain modified its architecture in children with advanced hearing loss. 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.
Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium loss of hearing too.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to result in significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Helping individuals adjust to hearing loss appears to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The research that hearing loss can change the brains of children definitely has repercussions beyond childhood. Loss of hearing is commonly a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people who suffer from it are adults. Is hearing loss altering their brains, as well?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss improves your other senses, it does impact the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the country.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
It’s more than trivial insight that hearing loss can have such a major impact on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health problems when hearing loss develops. Being aware of those impacts can help you prepare for them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take the appropriate steps to preserve your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on many factors (including your age, older brains tend to firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.