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Our changing brain and the effect of hearing loss

"by " Albert Stein

When you discover you have a hearing condition, your life changes. Hearing loss can have a wide range of effects, from an impaired ability to perceive the sounds around you, to changing the way you interact with others socially. 

What you may not have realised, is that changes in our hearing can also have an effect on the brain. 

Thanks to neuroplasticity, the human brain is capable of impressive feats of adaptation, especially when it comes to our senses. A study from the University of Colorado has examined this process in relation to hearing loss, making some important discoveries. 

Researchers from the university's Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science used electroencephalogram (EEG) readings to compare the brain activity of both adults and children with hearing loss against those with regular hearing. 

What they found was that even in people with mild hearing loss, areas of the brain associated with other senses such as vision and touch can 'recruit' auditory centres – effectively taking over parts of the brain that are no longer receiving stimulation with the onset of hearing loss*.  

"Given that even small degrees of hearing loss can cause secondary changes in the brain, hearing screenings for adults and intervention in the form of hearing aids should be considered much earlier to protect against reorganisation of the brain," said Professor Anu Sharma of the University of Colorado*. 

The study emphasises the importance of addressing hearing loss as soon as possible, in order to minimise this so-called rearrangement of the brain. 

If you believe a loved one is being affected by untreated hearing loss, and could benefit from a hearing solution, click here or call 1800 340 631 to request an appointment with your local Audika clinic.

*Acoustical Society of America, How does the brain respond to hearing loss? Accessed August 29, 2015.