Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we commonly have false ideas about brain development. You might think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve likely heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. Vision is the most well known example: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there may be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this holds true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing show 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 even moderate hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are functioning, the brain devotes a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a certain amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been proven that the brain changed its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are delivering the most information.
Modifications With Mild to Medium Hearing Loss
Children who have minor to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to translate into significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Alternatively, they simply seem to help people adapt to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The change in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. Loss of hearing is commonly a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means the majority of people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t verified hearing loss improves your other senses, it does affect the brain.
Individuals from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
That hearing loss can have such a substantial influence on the brain is more than simple superficial insight. It reminds us all of the vital and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.
There can be noticeable and substantial mental health issues when hearing loss develops. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your loss of hearing will physically modify your brain ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a tougher time establishing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.