How the Brain is Affected by Hearing Loss
March is Brain Health Awareness Month!
The human brain is made up of approximately one hundred billion neurons. Communication between these neurons is essential to understanding everything we see, think and do. So, what happens to our brain as we age and our senses start to fail?
When our hearing starts to fail
When hearing loss occurs, the part of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized, or reassigned to other functions.
A study done at the University of Colorado’s Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science, assessed adults and children with varying degrees of hearing loss to measure how the brain responded to sound stimulation.
What they found is that when hearing loss occurs, the areas of the brain that manage other senses, like vision and touch, take over the areas of the brain that normally process hearing. Essentially the brain compensates for the loss and adapts by rewiring itself. The brain is a “use it or lose it” organ, and hearing loss should be addressed as soon as it’s identified.
Early diagnosis and intervention to aid in hearing loss can help maintain cognitive function. Hearing loss can impact the brain’s ability to process sound, which can affect a person’s ability to understand speech. Even mild hearing loss can cause changes in the brain, so hearing screenings for all ages are important to protect against reorganization of the brain.