Your brain develops in a different way than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we often have false ideas about brain development. Your mind, you believe, is a static thing: it only changes as a result of injury or trauma. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
You’ve most likely heard of the concept that, as one sense diminishes, the other four senses will become more powerful in order to compensate. Vision is the most popular example: your senses of hearing, taste, and smell will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.
That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there could be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is uncertain.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have loss of hearing, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, changing the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to instead be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that the brain’s architecture can be influenced by even slight hearing loss.
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. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a certain amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
Conventional literature had already confirmed that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain changed its general structure. Instead of being devoted to hearing, that area in the brain is restructured to be devoted to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.
Mild to Medium Hearing Loss Also Triggers Changes
Children who suffer from mild to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
These brain modifications won’t produce superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adapt to loss of hearing appears to be a more accurate interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The modification in the brains of children definitely has far reaching consequences. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is usually a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss changing their brains, too?
Some evidence indicates that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Hearing loss has been linked, according to other evidence, with higher risks for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t proven hearing loss improves your other senses, it does influence the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from people across the country.
Your General Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
That loss of hearing can have such a substantial impact on the brain is more than simple trivial insight. It calls attention to all of the vital and inherent links between your brain and your senses.
When loss of hearing develops, there are often substantial and noticeable mental health effects. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take action to protect your quality of life.
Many factors will define how much your loss of hearing will physically change your brain (including how old you are, older brains usually firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are harder to establish as a result). But you can be certain that neglected hearing loss will have an effect on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter how old you are.