How Hearing Loss Affects Your Memory

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

Did you turn the TV up last night? It might be a sign of hearing loss if so. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s starting become more of a problem recently. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be faltering. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.

Now, sure, age can be related to both loss of hearing and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also linked to each other. At first, that may 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 Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Hearing impairment can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you’re aware of the decrease in your hearing. 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? There are numerous ways:

  • Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely encounter some extra obstacles communicating. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can bring about memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they begin to weaken. Social isolation, depression, and memory issues will, over time, set in.
  • An abundance of quiet: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
  • Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s going on out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks external sounds are very quiet, so it gives a lot of energy attempting to hear in that quiet environment). Your brain as well as your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical exhaustion often causes memory loss.

Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss

Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. Mental or physical fatigue or illness, among other things, can cause memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally improve your memory.

This can be a case of your body throwing up red flags. The red flags come out when things aren’t working right. And having a hard time recollecting who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.

But these warnings can help you know when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.

Memory Loss Often Points to Hearing Loss

It’s often difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving afflictions. Once you actually notice the corresponding symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most hearing specialists would like. But if you get your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.

Retrieving Your Memory

In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, either via mental fatigue or social separation, treatment of your root hearing problem is step one in treatment. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops straining and struggling. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.

Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.

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