How Memory is Impacted by Hearing Loss

HEARING TIPS

Woman struggling with a crossword puzzle because she has hearing loss induced memory loss.

Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? It may be an indication of hearing loss if so. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been occurring more frequently, also. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You met her recently, but even so, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: you’re getting older.

Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it’s even more relevant that these two can also be related to each other. At first, that may seem like bad news (not only do you have to deal with loss of hearing, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this connection.

The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get strained from hearing loss before you even know you have it. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.

How is so much of your brain impacted by hearing loss? There are several ways:

  • Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early stages of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s happening out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort attempting to hear in that quiet environment). Your brain as well as your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical exhaustion often leads to loss of memory.
  • Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. Social isolation will commonly be the consequence, And isolation can bring about memory problems because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to weaken. In the long run, social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
  • It’s becoming quieter: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not seem like a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can lead to a certain amount of overall stress, which can impact your memory.

Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body

Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, naturally. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, and that includes illness or fatigue (either mental or physical forms). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help help your memory.

Consequently, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working precisely. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.

Those red flags can be helpful if you’re trying to keep an eye out for hearing loss.

Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss

The signs and symptoms of hearing impairment can often be hard to recognize. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Damage to your hearing is commonly worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you start noticing symptoms associated with memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good possibility you can avoid some damage to your hearing.

Retrieving Your Memory

In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, whether it’s through social separation or mental exhaustion, the first step is to manage the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops struggling and straining, it’ll be capable of returning to its normal activities. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to get used to hearing again.

The warning signs raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.

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