Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? It might be a sign of hearing loss if so. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been happening more frequently, also. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And as you rack your brains, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.
Now, absolutely, age can be related to both loss of hearing and memory malfunction. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also connected to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (not only do you have to deal with loss of hearing, you have to work around your failing memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the relationship between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Link 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 numerous ways:
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a sort of hyper-activation fatigue. That’s because your brain will be straining to hear what’s taking place out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it believes that everything is quiet). Your brain as well as your body will be left exhausted. Memory loss and other issues can be the result.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing begins to diminish (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom may not seem like a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can result in a certain amount of generalized stress, which can impact your memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. That can lead some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can lead to memory problems because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that triggers memory loss. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, and that includes fatigue and illness (either physical or mental varieties). As an example, eating right 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 begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working correctly. 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 Commonly Linked to Memory Loss
It’s often hard to detect the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is generally more advanced than most hearing specialists would want. However, if you start identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good chance you can prevent 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 separation or mental exhaustion, treatment of your underlying hearing problem is the first step in treatment. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
Memory loss 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.