Your brain develops differently than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always correct. Your mind, you believe, is a static thing: it only changes because of injury or trauma. But the fact is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Affected by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get stronger. Vision is the most popular instance: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there could be a nugget of truth somewhere in there. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by loss of hearing. It’s open to question how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor loss of hearing can have an impact on the brain’s architecture.
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 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 proven that the brain altered its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being devoted to hearing, that space in the brain is restructured to be committed to vision. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with minor to moderate loss of hearing also.
Make no mistake, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in substantial behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping people adapt to loss of hearing appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The alteration in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Hearing loss is commonly a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that most people who suffer from it are adults. Is hearing loss altering their brains, as well?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from individuals across the US.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
That hearing loss can have such a major impact on the brain is more than simple trivial information. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically connected.
There can be obvious 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 action to maintain your quality of life.
How much your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on many factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a tougher time establishing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.