Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always accurate. You may think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But the truth is that brains are somewhat more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve probably heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will become more powerful to counterbalance. Vision is the most popular instance: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but as is the case with all good myths, there might be a sliver of truth somewhere in there. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from loss of hearing, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, 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 mild hearing loss.
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. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a certain amount of brain power. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
It’s already been verified that the brain modified its architecture in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses deliver the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Modifications With Mild to Medium Hearing Loss
Children who suffer from minor to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain alterations won’t lead to superpowers or significant behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adapt to hearing loss seems to be a more accurate 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 an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage meaning that the majority of people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being altered by hearing loss?
Noise damage, based on some evidence, can actually cause inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although we haven’t confirmed hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does influence the brain.
People from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health
It’s more than trivial insight that hearing loss can have such an important impact on the brain. It’s a reminder that the senses and the brain are intrinsically linked.
When hearing loss develops, there are commonly considerable and recognizable mental health impacts. Being mindful of those impacts can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take the appropriate steps to maintain your quality of life.
Many factors will determine how much your hearing loss will physically alter your brain (including how old you are, older brains commonly firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will absolutely have an effect on your brain.