Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always accurate. Your mind, you believe, is a static object: it only changes due to damage or trauma. But the reality is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get stronger. Vision is the most well known example: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this is true in adults, but we know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing reveal that their brains physically alter their structures, transforming the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to instead be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even mild hearing loss can have an impact on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A certain amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all working. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. Much of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly pliable) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been verified that the brain modified its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Triggers Modifications
Children who have 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 cause significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Alternatively, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has implications beyond childhood. The vast majority of people living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is usually a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although it’s not certain if the other senses are enhanced by hearing loss we are sure it changes the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from people across the country.
Your Overall Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial information that hearing loss can have such an important influence on the brain. It calls attention to all of the vital and inherent links between your senses and your brain.
There can be noticeable and considerable mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more prepared you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically change your brain ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a tougher time establishing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, untreated hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.