Hearing Health Blog

Woman doing crossword puzzle and wearing hearing aid to improve her brain.

When you’re born with loss of hearing, your brain develops a little differently than it otherwise might. Shocked? That’s because our ideas about the brain aren’t always valid. You might think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.

Your Brain is Impacted by Hearing

The majority of people have heard that when one sense diminishes the others get more powerful. Vision is the most well known instance: as you lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become very powerful as a counterbalance.

That hasn’t been proven scientifically, but like all good myths, there might be a nugget of truth in there somewhere. Because loss of hearing, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to debate how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true with children.

The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from loss of hearing, has been demonstrated 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 impacted by even moderate loss of hearing.

How Hearing Loss Changes The Brain

A certain amount of brainpower is committed to each sense when they are all functioning. The interpreting of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all use a specific amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is very flexible and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.

It’s already been proven that the brain modified its structure in children with high degrees of hearing loss. Instead of being committed to hearing, that space in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain devotes most of its resources.

Modifications With Minor to Moderate Hearing Loss

What’s surprising is that this same rearrangement has been discovered in children with minor to moderate hearing loss too.

These brain alterations won’t lead to superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Instead, they simply seem to help individuals adapt to hearing loss.

A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time

The research that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has repercussions beyond childhood. The vast majority of people living with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is commonly a result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is hearing loss changing their brains, as well?

Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually cause inflammation in certain regions of the brain. Other evidence has connected untreated hearing loss with higher risks for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So while it’s not certain if the other senses are modified by hearing loss we do know it changes the brain.

That’s backed by anecdotal evidence from individuals across the US.

Your Overall Health is Affected by Hearing Loss

That loss of hearing can have such a significant impact on the brain is more than simple superficial insight. It reminds us all of the relevant and inherent relationships between your brain and your senses.

When loss of hearing develops, there are usually significant and recognizable mental health impacts. In order to be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And the more educated you are, the more you can take the appropriate steps to maintain your quality of life.

How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors (including how old you are, older brains tend to 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.

 

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