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 our concepts about the brain aren’t always valid. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes due to damage or trauma. But the truth is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve most likely heard of the notion that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. Vision is the most well known instance: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become more powerful to compensate for loss of vision.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this is the case 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, transforming the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that even minor hearing loss can have an influence on the brain’s architecture.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A certain amount of brainpower is devoted to each sense when they are all working. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all utilize a specific amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain changed its general structure. The space that would usually be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to better help with visual cognition. The brain devotes more space and more power to the senses that are providing the most information.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with minor to medium hearing loss too.
These brain changes won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adapt to hearing loss appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The change in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Hearing loss is frequently a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people suffering from it are adults. Is loss of hearing changing their brains, too?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, 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 affect the brain.
Families from around the country have anecdotally backed this up.
The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than trivial information that loss of hearing can have such an important impact on the brain. It calls attention to all of the relevant and intrinsic relationships between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and substantial mental health issues when loss of hearing develops. 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 action to preserve your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically modify your brain (including how old you are, older brains tend to firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.