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 valid. Your mind, you believe, is a static object: it only changes due to damage or trauma. But brains are actually more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others become more powerful. Vision is the most popular example: as you begin to lose your vision, your taste, smell, and hearing will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there could be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by hearing loss. It’s open to debate how much this is the case in adults, but we know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have hearing loss, has been shown by CT scans to change, transforming 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 influenced by even mild loss of hearing.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are functioning, 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. When your young, your brain is very pliable and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.
Conventional literature had already confirmed 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 perception. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.
Minor to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Causes Modifications
Children who have mild to moderate 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 lead to significant behavioral changes and they won’t produce superpowers. Helping people adapt to loss of hearing seems to be a more realistic interpretation.
A Long and Strong Relationship
The evidence that hearing loss can alter the brains of children definitely has repercussions beyond childhood. The vast majority of individuals living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is usually a consequence of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss modifying their brains, too?
Some research reveals that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Hearing loss has been associated, according to other evidence, with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So even though we haven’t confirmed hearing loss improves your other senses, it does impact the brain.
People from around the US have anecdotally backed this up.
Your Overall Health is Affected by Hearing Loss
It’s more than superficial insight that hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are inherently linked.
When loss of hearing develops, there are commonly considerable and recognizable mental health effects. Being aware of those effects can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take action to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your loss of hearing will physically modify your brain ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time creating new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how serious your loss of hearing is, neglected hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.