How Memory is Affected by Hearing Loss

Woman struggling with a crossword puzzle because she has hearing loss induced memory loss.

Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? It might be an indication of hearing loss if you did. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been occurring more often, too. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And there’s only one common denominator you can think of: aging.

Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also related to one another. At first, that might seem like bad news (not only do you have to cope with loss of hearing, you have to work around your waning memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the connection between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.

The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get strained from hearing loss before you even realize 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 is so much of your brain impacted by hearing loss? Well, there are several specific ways:

  • Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll probably experience some additional obstacles communicating. That can lead some people to seclude themselves. And isolation can result in memory problems because, once 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 issues will, over time, set in.
  • Constant strain: Your brain will go through a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it believes that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. Loss of memory and other problems can be the outcome.
  • An abundance of quiet: As your hearing begins to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the regions of your brain that interprets sound, this can be quite dull. This boredom might not appear to be a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can impact the function 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 causes memory loss. There are lots of things that can cause your recollections to begin to get fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (either physical or mental forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally improve your memory.

Consequently, 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 precisely. And having trouble 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.

Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss

The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can often be hard to detect. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing conditions. Damage to your hearing is usually further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get checked out early, there’s a strong chance you can avoid some damage to your hearing.

Retrieving Your Memory

In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, whether it’s through social isolation or mental fatigue, the first task is to deal with the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops struggling and straining, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust 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 protecting your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.

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