Did you turn up the TV last night? It may be an indication of hearing loss if you did. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been occurring more frequently, too. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be declining. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: you’re getting older.
Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also connected to one another. That might sound like bad news initially (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss together…great). But there can be unseen positives to this connection.
The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in numerous ways long before you recognize the diminishing prowess of your ears. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How does a deficiency of your ear impact such a large part of your brain? There are numerous ways:
- Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll likely experience some additional challenges communicating. That can lead some individuals to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory issues. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. In the long run, social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s taking place in the world (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks things are very quiet, so it gives a lot of effort attempting to hear in that quiet environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. That mental and physical fatigue often results in loss of memory.
- It’s getting quieter: Things will get quieter when your hearing begins to diminish (especially if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. This can interfere with the performance of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that triggers memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, and that includes fatigue and illness (either mental or physical varieties). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.
In this way, 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 properly. And having a hard time remembering who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you recognize when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Commonly Related to Memory Loss
It’s often difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Harm to your hearing is usually worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you get your hearing tested soon after detecting some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, either via mental exhaustion or social isolation, the first task is to deal with the root hearing problem. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. It can take a few months for your brain to get used 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 safeguarding your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.