Did you turn up the TV last night? If you did, it may be an indication of hearing loss. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. You couldn’t even remember what your new co-worker’s name was when you were at work yesterday. You just met her, but still, it seems like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And there’s only one common denominator you can find: aging.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss together…great). But the reality is, the link between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing impairment before you even know you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How does a deficiency of your ear affect so much of your brain? There are numerous ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early stages of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. Memory loss and other problems can be the result.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing starts to wane (especially if your hearing loss is overlooked and untreated). For the regions of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not appear to be a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can lead to a certain degree of generalized stress, which can interfere with your memory.
- Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll probably encounter some added struggles communicating. Social isolation will often be the result, Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory issues. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. In the long run, social separation can result in anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start getting fuzzy, such as fatigue and illness (either mental or physical varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can often improve your memory.
Consequently, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags go up when things aren’t working properly. And having trouble remembering who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re attempting to keep an eye out for hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is Frequently Related to Memory Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can frequently be hard to detect. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Damage to your hearing is often further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you begin identifying symptoms connected to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good possibility you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Getting Your Memories Back
In instances where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, the first task is to treat the root hearing problem. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
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.