Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If so, it could be an indication of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been occurring more often, too. You couldn’t even remember what your new co-worker’s name was when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be declining. And there’s only one common denominator you can find: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to each other. At first, that may seem like bad news (you have to cope with memory loss and hearing loss together…great). But the truth is, the connection between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Relationship?
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in numerous ways well before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How is so much of your brain impacted by loss of hearing? There are several ways:
- It’s getting quieter: As your hearing starts to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be quite dull. This boredom might not seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can result in a certain degree of overall stress, which can impact 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 very quiet, so it gives a lot of energy trying to hear in that quiet environment). Your brain as well as your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often results in loss of memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. That can lead some people to seclude themselves. And isolation can result in memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they start to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory issues will, over time, develop.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your recollections to start getting fuzzy, and that includes illness or fatigue (either physical or mental forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can often increase your memory.
This can be a case of your body throwing up red flags. The red flags come out when things aren’t working right. And having a hard time recalling who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.
Loss of Memory Often Indicates Hearing Loss
It’s often difficult to detect the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing ailments. Once you actually recognize the corresponding symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually farther along than most hearing specialists would want. But if you get your hearing checked soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental fatigue or social isolation, the first step is to treat the root hearing problem. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and overworking. It can take a few months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.