When you’re born with loss of hearing, 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. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes as a result of trauma or injury. But brains are actually more dynamic than that.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful in order to counterbalance. The popular example is always vision: as you lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there could be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is altered by hearing loss. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
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 the brain’s architecture can be effected by even slight hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
A specific amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all functioning. A specific amount of brain power goes towards interpreting touch, a certain amount towards hearing or vision, and etc. 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 modified its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be committed to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Triggers Changes
Children who suffer from minor to medium loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
Make no mistake, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Rather, they simply appear to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The alteration in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. The vast majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is frequently a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss changing their brains, too?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
Families from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
Your Overall Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such an enormous effect on the brain is more than simple superficial insight. It calls attention to all of the essential and inherent relationships between your senses and your brain.
When hearing loss develops, there are commonly substantial and obvious mental health impacts. Being conscious of those effects can help you be prepared for them. And being prepared will help you take action to preserve your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on several factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a more difficult time creating new neural pathways). But you can be certain that untreated hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.