Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? It might be an indication of hearing loss if you did. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been occurring more often, 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 declining. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: you’re getting older.
Now, absolutely, age can be related to both hearing loss and memory malfunction. But it’s even more relevant that these two can also be connected to each other. At first, that may seem like bad news (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss together…great). But the truth is, the link between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain starts to become taxed from hearing impairment 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:
- Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll likely experience some extra challenges communicating. That can push some people to isolate themselves. And isolation can bring about memory problems because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they begin to deteriorate. Eventually, social separation can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a sort 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 (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. Memory loss and other issues can be the outcome.
- An abundance of quiet: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (especially if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not seem like a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can impact the performance of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, naturally. Mental or physical fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can often improve your memory.
In this way, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags come out when things aren’t working properly. And having a hard time recollecting who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re trying 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 is one of those slow-moving ailments. Damage to your hearing is usually worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you have your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where hearing loss has affected your memory, either via mental fatigue or social isolation, the first step is to manage the root hearing issue. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops straining and struggling. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to get used to hearing again.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.