Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with hearing loss. Does that surprise you? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always correct. Your mind, you believe, is a static object: it only changes as a result of trauma or injury. But the reality is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
You’ve most likely heard of the idea that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to counterbalance. The well-known example is usually vision: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there may be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing 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 effected by even moderate loss of hearing.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are functioning, the brain dedicates a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain power. Much of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely pliable) because that’s when you’re first establishing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain modified its overall architecture. The space that would normally be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with mild to medium loss of hearing also.
These brain changes won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Alternatively, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching consequences. The vast majority of individuals living with hearing loss are adults, and the hearing loss in general is commonly a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss changing their brains, too?
Some evidence reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Other evidence has associated neglected hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t verified hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the US.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than trivial information that hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are intrinsically linked.
There can be noticeable and substantial mental health problems when hearing loss develops. Being informed of those effects can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors ((age is a leading factor because older brains have a more difficult time establishing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.