Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If you did, it could be a sign of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been occurring more often, also. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And there’s only one common denominator you can find: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also connected to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (not only do you have to cope with loss of hearing, you have to work around your failing memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the relationship between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways well before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How does a deficiency of your ear impact so much of your brain? Well, there are a number of distinct ways:
- Social isolation: When you have difficulty hearing, you’ll probably experience some additional struggles communicating. That can push some people to isolate themselves. And isolation can bring about memory issues because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory issues will, over time, set in.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a sort of hyper-activation exhaustion. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are very quiet, so it gives a lot of energy trying to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to memory loss.
- It’s becoming quieter: As your hearing starts to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (especially if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, rather boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. That can lead to a certain amount of overall stress, which can hinder your memory.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, such as illness or fatigue (either physical or mental forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can generally increase your memory.
This can be an example of your body putting up red flags. The red flags come out when things aren’t working right. And having difficulty recalling 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 Connected to Memory Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can frequently be difficult to notice. Hearing loss doesn’t develop instantly. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is generally farther along than most hearing specialists would want. But if you have your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the problem early.
Retrieving Your Memory
In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, whether it’s through social separation or mental fatigue, the first step is to treat the root hearing problem. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. It can take a few months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
The warning signs raised by your loss of memory 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.