Did you turn up the TV last night? It might be a sign of hearing loss if you did. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been happening more often, also. 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 memory and your hearing seem to be declining. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be affected 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 (not only do you have to deal with hearing loss, 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?
Your brain starts to become strained from hearing impairment before you even know 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 affected by hearing loss? There are several ways:
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a kind of hyper-activation exhaustion. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. Memory loss and other issues can be the result.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. That can lead some individuals to seclude themselves. And isolation can bring about memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they start to weaken. Eventually, social separation can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
- It’s getting quieter: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to diminish (especially if your hearing loss is overlooked and neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom may not seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can result in a certain degree of generalized stress, which can impact your memory.
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. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can usually increase your memory.
This can be a case of your body throwing up red flags. Your brain begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working properly. And one of those red flags is failing to remember what your friend said yesterday.
But these warnings can help you recognize when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Often Linked to Memory Loss
It’s often hard to detect the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving ailments. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually farther along than most hearing specialists would like. But if you get your hearing checked soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, either via mental fatigue or social separation, the first step is to manage the underlying hearing issue. The brain will be able to get back to its normal activity when it stops straining and struggling. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to get used to hearing again.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.