Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always valid. Your mind, you tell yourself, is a static object: it only changes because of trauma or injury. But the fact is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
The majority of people have heard that when one sense decreases the others get more powerful. The well-known example is usually vision: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become very powerful as a counterbalance.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because the architecture of your brain can be and is changed by loss of hearing. It’s open to question how much this is true in adults, but we know it’s true in children.
The physical structure of children’s brains, who have hearing loss, has been demonstrated by CT scans to change, altering the part of the brain normally 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 moderate loss of hearing.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A specific amount of brainpower is dedicated to each sense when they are all functioning. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a specific amount of brain power. When your young, your brain is extremely pliable and that’s when these pathways are being developed and this architecture is being set up.
Established literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total hearing loss, the brain modified its general architecture. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be devoted to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are providing the most input.
Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss
Children who suffer from minor to moderate loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.
To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to lead to significant behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Alternatively, they simply appear to help individuals adjust to hearing loss.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The change in the brains of children certainly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of people living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is commonly a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in particular parts of the brain. Other evidence has linked untreated hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while we haven’t verified hearing loss improves your other senses, it does influence the brain.
That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from families across the country.
Your General Health is Influenced by Hearing Loss
It’s more than trivial insight that loss of hearing can have such a significant effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically linked.
There can be noticeable and substantial mental health problems when loss of hearing develops. Being conscious of those effects can help you prepare for them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take steps to maintain your quality of life.
How substantially your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on many factors ((age is a major factor because older brains have a harder time creating new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, no matter how mild it is, and no matter what your age.