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 an issue. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And there’s only one common denominator you can come up with: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also linked to one another. At first, that may sound like bad news (not only do you have to cope with hearing loss, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the connection between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be straining for your brain in a number of ways long before you recognize the diminishing prowess of your ears. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How does a deficiency of your ear affect so much of your brain? Well, there are a number of specific ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early stages of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be straining to hear what’s happening out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks things are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort trying to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to loss of memory.
- Social isolation: When you have difficulty hearing, you’ll likely experience some extra struggles communicating. Social isolation will often be the result, And isolation can lead to memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to diminish (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. This can interfere with the function of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to begin to get fuzzy, such as fatigue and illness (either mental or physical forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can often improve your memory.
This can be an example of your body throwing up red flags. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working precisely. 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 starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Loss of Memory Frequently Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can frequently be difficult to recognize. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving afflictions. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most hearing specialists would like. But if you have your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you might 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 task is to deal with the root hearing problem. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be capable of returning to its regular activities. Be patient, it can take a bit 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.