Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with hearing loss. Surprised? That’s because we often think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes due to damage or trauma. But the truth is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become more powerful. Vision is the most popular instance: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is uncertain.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from hearing loss, has been demonstrated 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 moderate loss of hearing can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a certain amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been verified that the brain changed its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Modifications With Mild to Medium Loss of Hearing
Children who have mild to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t lead to superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adjust to loss of hearing appears to be a more practical interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children certainly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is usually a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is loss of hearing changing their brains, as well?
Some evidence indicates that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t verified hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally backed this up.
Your Overall Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a major influence on the brain is more than basic superficial insight. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are intrinsically linked.
There can be noticeable and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. Being mindful of those impacts can help you be prepared for them. And being prepared will help you take action to maintain your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors (including how old you are, older brains tend to firm up that structure and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.