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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 normally would. Is that surprising to you? That’s because we often think about brains in the wrong way. You may think that only injury or trauma can change your brain. But brains are really more dynamic than that.

Hearing Impacts Your Brain

You’ve probably heard of the concept that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. Vision is the most popular instance: your senses of smell, taste, and hearing will become stronger to compensate for loss of vision.

There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been verified scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. At least we know that happens in children, how much we can extrapolate to adults is an open question.

The physical structure of children’s brains, who suffer from hearing loss, has been shown 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 slight loss of hearing.

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 utilize a specific amount of brain space. When your young, your brain is extremely flexible and that’s when these pathways are being formed and this architecture is being set up.

It’s already been confirmed that the brain altered its structure in children with advanced hearing loss. The space that would normally be dedicated to hearing is instead reconfigured to boost visual cognition. Whichever senses provide the most information is where the brain applies most of its resources.

Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Causes Modifications

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

To be clear, these modifications in the brain aren’t going to result in substantial behavioral changes and they won’t lead to superpowers. Rather, they simply appear to help individuals adapt to hearing loss.

A Long and Strong Relationship

The change in the brains of children undoubtedly has far reaching repercussions. Hearing loss is normally an outcome of long term noise related or age related hearing damage which means most people who suffer from it are adults. Are their brains also being changed by hearing loss?

Some research reveals that noise damage can actually cause inflammation in certain parts of the brain. Other evidence has associated untreated hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although we haven’t verified hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does impact the brain.

Families from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.

The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your General Health

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 intrinsic connections between your senses and your brain.

When loss of hearing develops, there are often significant and noticeable mental health effects. Being mindful of those impacts can help you be prepared for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.

How much your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a tougher time establishing new neural pathways). But there’s no doubt that untreated hearing loss will have an influence on your brain, regardless of how mild it is, and no matter what your age.