Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? It may be a sign of hearing loss if you did. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been happening more frequently, also. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You met her recently, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be related to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (not only do you have to cope with loss of hearing, you have to manage your failing memory too, wonderful). But the reality is, the relationship between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Link?
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in a number of ways well 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 does a deficiency of your ear affect so much of your brain? Well, there are a few distinct ways:
- 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, rather boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom might not appear to be a serious problem, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. This can interfere with the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a type of hyper-activation fatigue. This occurs because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s happening in the world (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling exhausted. Loss of memory and other issues can be the outcome.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. Social isolation will frequently be the consequence, And isolation can result in memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Over time, social isolation can result in anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, of course. Physical or mental illness or fatigue, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can usually increase your memory.
Consequently, memory is kind of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working properly. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re attempting to keep an eye out for hearing loss.
Memory Loss Frequently Points to Hearing Loss
It’s frequently difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Damage to your hearing is usually worse than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good chance you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, the first step is to manage the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
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.