Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? It may be a sign of hearing loss if so. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been happening more often, too. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You just met her, but even so, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: you’re getting older.
Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory malfunction. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to one another. That might sound like bad news at first (you have to deal with hearing loss and memory loss at the same time…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 Connection?
Your brain starts to become taxed from hearing impairment 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 does a deficiency of your ear affect such a large part of your brain? There are numerous ways:
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing begins to wane (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds. This boredom might not appear to be a serious problem, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. This can interfere with the function of all of your brain’s systems including 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 taking place 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 external sounds are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort attempting to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often results in loss of memory.
- Social isolation: When you have difficulty hearing, you’ll probably experience some added struggles communicating. Social isolation will frequently be the consequence, Once again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory problems. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they begin to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. Mental or physical illness or fatigue, among other things, can cause memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally improve 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.
But these warnings can help you recognize when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Often Linked to Memory Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can often be difficult to detect. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing tends to be more advanced than most hearing specialists would like. However, if you start identifying symptoms associated with memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good possibility you can prevent some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In instances where hearing loss has affected your memory, whether it’s through social isolation or mental fatigue, the first task is to treat the root hearing problem. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be capable of returning to its regular activities. It can take several months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.