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 ideas about the brain aren’t always accurate. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static thing: it only changes because of trauma or damage. But the fact is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
Most people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become stronger. The popular example is always vision: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been confirmed scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by loss of hearing. It’s open to debate how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from hearing loss, 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 the brain’s architecture can be effected by even mild loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. A certain amount of brain space goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
It’s already been confirmed that the brain modified its architecture in children with advanced hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Modifications With Mild to Medium Loss of Hearing
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with mild to medium hearing loss also.
These brain changes won’t result in superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping people adapt to hearing loss appears to be a more practical 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 normally a result of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people suffering from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though it’s not certain if the other senses are modified by hearing loss we do know it modifies the brain.
Families from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
Your General Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a significant impact on the brain is more than basic superficial information. It calls attention to all of the vital and inherent relationships between your senses and your brain.
There can be obvious and significant mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. Being mindful of those effects can help you prepare for them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically modify your brain (including your age, 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 extreme your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.