Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Does that surprise you? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always valid. Your mind, you believe, is a static thing: it only changes because of damage or trauma. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get more powerful. 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.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing reveal 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 slight loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
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 make use of a specific amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain modified its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Triggers Changes
Children who suffer from mild to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these changes in the brain aren’t going to produce substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Helping people adjust to hearing loss appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children certainly has far reaching consequences. The great majority of people living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is commonly a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss modifying their brains, too?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are modified by hearing loss we are sure it alters the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That hearing loss can have such a major influence on the brain is more than simple superficial information. It calls attention to all of the vital and intrinsic connections between your senses and your brain.
When loss of hearing develops, there are usually considerable and obvious mental health impacts. Being mindful of those impacts can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to preserve your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your hearing loss will physically modify your brain (including how old you are, older brains usually firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how serious your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.