Brain plasticity and hearing disorders

Rev Neurol (Paris). 2021 Nov;177(9):1121-1132. doi: 10.1016/j.neurol.2021.09.004. Epub 2021 Oct 15.


Permanently changed sensory stimulation can modify functional connectivity patterns in the healthy brain and in pathology. In the pathology case, these adaptive modifications of the brain are referred to as compensation, and the subsequent configurations of functional connectivity are called compensatory plasticity. The variability and extent of auditory deficits due to the impairments in the hearing system determine the related brain reorganization and rehabilitation. In this review, we consider cross-modal and intra-modal brain plasticity related to bilateral and unilateral hearing loss and their restoration using cochlear implantation. Cross-modal brain plasticity may have both beneficial and detrimental effects on hearing disorders. It has a beneficial effect when it serves to improve a patient's adaptation to the visuo-auditory environment. However, the occupation of the auditory cortex by visual functions may be a negative factor for the restoration of hearing with cochlear implants. In what concerns intra-modal plasticity, the loss of interhemispheric asymmetry in asymmetric hearing loss is deleterious for the auditory spatial localization. Research on brain plasticity in hearing disorders can advance our understanding of brain plasticity and improve the rehabilitation of the patients using prognostic, evidence-based approaches from cognitive neuroscience combined with post-rehabilitation objective biomarkers of this plasticity utilizing neuroimaging.

Keywords: Brain plasticity; Cochlear implantation; Cross-modal; Deafness; Hearing loss; Intra-modal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex*
  • Cochlear Implantation*
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Deafness* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity