Did you turn up the TV last night? It might be a sign of hearing loss if you did. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s starting become more of a problem recently. You couldn’t even remember what your new co-worker’s name was when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And as you rack your brains, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.
Now, sure, age can be related to both hearing loss and memory malfunction. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also related to one another. That may sound like bad news at first (you have to deal with memory loss and hearing loss together…great). But the truth is, the relationship between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Relationship?
Hearing impairment can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.
How is so much of your brain impacted by loss of hearing? Well, there are several distinct ways:
- An abundance of quiet: As your hearing starts to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (especially if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. This can impact the performance of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some people to seclude themselves. Once again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory problems. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. In the long run, social separation can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it believes that everything is quiet). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling exhausted. That mental and physical exhaustion often causes memory loss.
Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that triggers memory loss. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help help your memory.
Consequently, memory is kind of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working properly. And having a hard time recalling 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 Often Connected to Memory Loss
The signs and symptoms of hearing impairment can frequently be hard to notice. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing afflictions. Harm to your hearing is commonly worse than you would like by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you have your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, whether it’s through social isolation or mental exhaustion, treatment of your underlying hearing problem is the first step in treatment. When your brain stops overworking and over stressing, it’ll be capable of returning to its normal activities. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
The red flags raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.