Feel like you may be forgetting something crucial? It isn’t your imagination. It really is becoming more difficult to remember things in everyday life. Loss of memory seems to advance fairly quickly once it’s noticed. It becomes more debilitating the more aware of it you become. Did you know memory loss is linked to hearing loss?
If you believe that this is just a normal part of the aging process, you would be wrong. There’s always a root cause for the loss of the ability to process memories.
For many people that cause is neglected hearing loss. Is your ability to remember being impacted by hearing loss? You can slow the development of memory loss significantly and possibly even get some back if you are aware of the cause.
Here are some facts to think about.
How neglected hearing loss can contribute to memory loss
There is a connection. Cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in individuals who have hearing loss.
The reasons for this higher risk are multi-fold.
To begin with, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. Listening to things requires added effort. While this came naturally before, it’s now something your mind has to strain to process.
It becomes necessary to activate deductive reasoning. When trying to listen, you remove the unlikely possibilities to determine what someone most likely said.
Your brain is under added strain because of this. And when you’re unable to accurately use those deductive reasoning skills it can be very stressful. This can result in embarrassment, misunderstandings, and even bitterness.
Stress has a significant effect on how we process memory. When we’re stressed out, we’re spending brain resources that we should be using for memory.
And something new begins to happen as hearing loss progresses.
This stress of having to work overtime to hear and needing people to repeat what they said makes a person “feel older” than they are. If you’re always thinking that you’re getting old, it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of someone who’s so lonely that they start to lose touch with reality. Human beings are meant to be social. Even people who are introverted struggle when they’re never around others.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. Talking on the phone becomes a chore. You need to have people repeat what they said at social functions making them a lot less enjoyable. Friends and family start to exclude you from conversations. Even when you’re in a room with lots of people, you may space out and feel secluded. Eventually, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
It’s just better to spend more time alone. You feel older than people your age and don’t feel that you can relate to them now.
When your brain isn’t frequently stimulated it becomes hard to process new information.
As a person with untreated hearing loss begins to isolate themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction commences in the brain. There’s no more stimulation going to parts of the brain. They stop functioning.
There’s a high degree of interconnectivity between the various regions of the brain. Hearing is connected with speech, memory, learning, problem-solving, and other abilities.
This loss of function in one area of the brain can gradually move to other brain functions including hearing. Memory loss is linked to this process.
It’s analogous to how the legs become atrophied when a person is bedridden for an extended period of time. Muscles get weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They may stop working entirely. They might need to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But with the brain, this damage is a lot more difficult to rehabilitate. Shrinkage actually happens to the brain. Doctors can observe this on brain scans.
How a hearing aid can stop memory loss
You’re most likely still in the beginning stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It may be barely noticeable. It’s not the hearing loss itself that is contributing to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is neglected.
Research has shown that people that have hearing loss who regularly wear their hearing aid have the same risk of developing memory loss as somebody of the same age with healthy hearing. People who began wearing hearing aids after symptoms began were able to slow the progression substantially.
As you get older, try to stay connected and active. Keep your memories, memory loss is connected to hearing loss. Don’t dismiss your hearing health. Schedule a hearing test. And talk to us about a solution if you’re not using your hearing aid for some reason.