Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? If you did, it might be a sign of hearing loss. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of an issue 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 as you rack your brains, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it’s even more relevant that these two can also be connected to each other. At first, that might sound like bad news (you have to cope with memory loss and hearing loss at the same time…great). But there can be unseen positives to this relationship.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain begins to get strained from hearing impairment before you even realize you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How is so much of your brain impacted by hearing loss? Well, there are a number of distinct ways:
- An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom might not seem like a serious problem, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. This can interfere with the function of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will go through a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be straining to hear what’s going on 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 external sounds are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. Loss of memory and other issues can be the result.
- Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely encounter some added obstacles communicating. That can lead some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can lead to memory issues because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your recollections to begin to get fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (either mental or physical varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can usually improve your memory.
This can be an example of your body throwing up red flags. The red flags go up when things aren’t working properly. And having difficulty remembering who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Often Related to Loss of Memory
It’s frequently hard to detect the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually farther along than most hearing specialists would want. But if you get your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the problem early.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where hearing loss has affected your memory, either via mental fatigue or social separation, the first step is to treat the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be capable of returning to its normal activities. It can take several months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
The warning signs raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.