Did you turn up the TV last night? It may be a sign of hearing loss if you did. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be faltering. And there’s only one common denominator you can think of: aging.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to one another. At first, that may seem like bad news (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 memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you’re aware of 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 affected by hearing loss? Well, there are a few different ways:
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a sort of hyper-activation exhaustion. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s happening 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 attempting to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to loss of memory.
- It’s becoming quieter: Things will get quieter when your hearing starts to diminish (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the regions of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.
- Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll probably experience some extra obstacles communicating. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory issues. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to weaken. Social isolation, depression, and memory issues will, over time, set in.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. Mental or physical illness or fatigue, among other things, can trigger memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can usually increase 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 know when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Often Connected to Loss of Memory
The signs and symptoms of hearing impairment can frequently be hard to detect. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Harm to your hearing is commonly further along than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you have your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the problem early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social isolation, treatment of your root hearing issue is step one in treatment. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops stressing and struggling. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to get used to hearing again.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.