Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? It might be an indication of hearing loss if so. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been happening more frequently, also. 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 memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be linked to each other. At first, that might sound like bad news (not only do you have to cope with loss of hearing, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this relationship.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain starts to become 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 does a deficiency of your hearing affect such a large part of your brain? There are several ways:
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a type of hyper-activation fatigue. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s going on in the world (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it gives a lot of effort attempting to hear in that quiet environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to loss of memory.
- Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely encounter some additional struggles communicating. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. Once again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can bring about memory issues. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to weaken. Over time, social separation can cause anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
- It’s getting quieter: As your hearing begins to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the parts 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 impact the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for example, 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 right. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re trying to watch out for hearing loss.
Memory Loss Frequently Points to Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can often be hard to notice. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most audiologists would want. But if you get your hearing tested soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental fatigue or social isolation, treatment of your root hearing issue is the first step in treatment. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops straining 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. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.