HEARING TIPS

Little Changes in Hearing Can Affect Your Brain

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

Your brain develops differently than normal if you’re born with loss of hearing. Is that surprising to you? That’s because our concepts about the brain aren’t always correct. You may think that only damage or trauma can change your brain. But brains are in fact more dynamic than that.

Your Brain is Affected by Hearing

You’ve probably heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. The well-known example is always vision: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.

There could be some truth to this but it hasn’t been proven scientifically. 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 extrapolate to adults is an open question.

CT scans and other studies of children with hearing loss demonstrate that their brains physically change their structures, transforming 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 even moderate loss of hearing can have an effect on the brain’s architecture.

How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss

When all five senses are working, the brain devotes 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 space. A lot of this architecture is established 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 confirmed that the brain modified its architecture in children with advanced hearing loss. The space that would in most cases be devoted to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual perception. Whichever senses supply the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.

Mild to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes

Children who have minor to medium hearing loss, surprisingly, have also been observed to show these same rearrangements.

To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to lead to substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Helping people adapt to loss of hearing appears to be a more practical interpretation.

A Long and Strong Relationship

The change in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. The vast majority of people dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss in general is frequently a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Are their brains also being altered by loss of hearing?

Some research reveals that noise damage can actually trigger inflammation in particular areas of the brain. Other evidence has associated neglected hearing loss with higher chances for anxiety, dementia, and depression. So although it’s not certain whether the other senses are improved by hearing loss we are sure it changes the brain.

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

The Influence of Hearing Loss on Your Overall Health

It’s more than superficial information that hearing loss can have such a substantial influence on the brain. It reminds us all of the essential and inherent connections between your senses and your brain.

When hearing loss develops, there are usually considerable and noticeable mental health impacts. So that you can be prepared for these consequences you need to be cognizant of them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.

How much your brain physically changes with the start of hearing loss will depend on a myriad of factors (including your age, older brains commonly firm up that architecture and new neural pathways are tougher to establish as a result). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.

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