When you’re born with hearing loss, your brain develops a little differently than it normally would. Does that surprise you? That’s because we commonly have false ideas about brain development. You may think that only injury or trauma can alter your brain. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others get stronger. The well-known example is always vision: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. It’s open to debate how much this is valid in adults, but we do know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other research on children who have loss of hearing reveal 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 the brain’s architecture can be influenced by even minor hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A specific amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all working. A certain amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain changed its general architecture. The space that would in most cases be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. The brain gives more space and more power to the senses that are providing the most information.
Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss Also Triggers Changes
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 produce superpowers. Helping individuals adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more practical interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children definitely has far reaching repercussions. Hearing loss is normally a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people who suffer from it are adults. Is loss of hearing altering their brains, too?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Other evidence has linked neglected hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although we haven’t confirmed hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
That’s borne out by anecdotal evidence from families across the country.
Your General Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a substantial impact on the brain is more than simple superficial insight. It calls attention to all of the vital and inherent links between your senses and your brain.
When hearing loss develops, there are usually significant and obvious mental health effects. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take the appropriate steps to preserve your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on many factors (including how old you are, older brains commonly firm up that structure and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.