Did you turn up the TV last night? If you did, it could be an indication of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been happening more often, also. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You met her recently, but still, 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.
Now, sure, age can be related to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also related to one another. At first, that might sound like bad news (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss together…great). But the truth is, the link between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain starts to become strained from hearing impairment before you even realize 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:
- It’s getting quieter: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, rather boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. That can result in a certain amount of overall stress, which can interfere with your memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will go through a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s going on out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks things are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort trying to hear in that quiet environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to loss of memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a hard time hearing. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can lead to memory issues because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to begin getting fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (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. The red flags come out when things aren’t working properly. And having a hard time recollecting who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you know when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Often Connected to Loss of Memory
It’s often hard to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving conditions. Once you actually recognize the corresponding symptoms, the damage to your hearing is generally farther along than most hearing specialists would want. However, if you begin identifying symptoms associated with memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good chance you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, whether it’s through social isolation or mental exhaustion, treatment of your root hearing problem is step one in treatment. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.