Your brain develops in a different way than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Does that surprise you? That’s because we normally think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes because of trauma or damage. But the fact is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing
Most people have heard that when one sense decreases the others become stronger. Vision is the most popular example: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become super powerful as a counterbalance.
That hasn’t been proven in the medical literature, but as is the case with all good myths, there could be a sliver of truth in there somewhere. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does change the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that occurs in children, how much we can apply this to adults is an open question.
CT scans and other research on children with loss of hearing show that their brains physically alter their structures, 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 minor hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain
When all five senses are working, the brain dedicates a certain amount of space (and power) to each one. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a specific amount of brain power. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are extremely flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Conventional literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain changed its overall structure. Instead of being devoted to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are providing the most input.
Mild to Medium Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes
What’s unexpected is that this same rearrangement has been observed in children with minor to medium loss of hearing too.
These brain modifications won’t cause superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. 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. Loss of hearing is normally a consequence of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people suffering from it are adults. Is hearing loss altering their brains, too?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Hearing loss has been connected, according to other evidence, with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So even though we haven’t confirmed hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does impact the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the US.
Your General Health is Impacted by Hearing Loss
That hearing loss can have such a major effect on the brain is more than simple trivial information. It calls attention to all of the essential and inherent connections between your brain and your senses.
When loss of hearing develops, there are often considerable and obvious mental health effects. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be aware of them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors (including your age, older brains commonly firm up that structure and new neural pathways are more difficult 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.