Your brain develops differently 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 accurate. You may think that only damage or trauma can alter your brain. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Impacts Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. The popular example is always vision: as you lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but like all good myths, there might be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other research on children with 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 slight loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a specific amount of space (and power) to each one. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and so on. Much of this architecture is established when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely pliable) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already verified that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain changed its general structure. The space that would normally 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 Loss of Hearing Also Triggers Changes
What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium hearing loss also.
These brain modifications won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Alternatively, they simply seem to help individuals adapt to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The modification in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. The great majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is commonly a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is loss of hearing modifying their brains, as well?
Some research indicates that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in particular regions of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher chances 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
It’s more than superficial information that hearing loss can have such a significant influence on the brain. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent connections between your senses and your brain.
When hearing loss develops, there are commonly significant and recognizable mental health impacts. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And being prepared will help you take action to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically alter your brain ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time establishing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.