Are you forgetting something? You aren’t imagining it. It really is getting more difficult to remember things in daily life. Once you notice it, loss of memory seems to advance quickly. The more you are aware of it, the more debilitating it is. Most people don’t realize that there’s a link between memory loss and hearing loss.
And no, this isn’t simply a normal part of aging. Losing the ability to process memories always has a root cause.
For many individuals that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing impacting your ability to remember? You can delay the onset of memory loss considerably and maybe even get some back if you are aware of what’s causing it.
Here are a few facts to think about.
How neglected hearing loss can contribute to memory loss
They aren’t unrelated. Cognitive issues, including Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in individuals who suffer from hearing loss.
The reasons for this higher risk are multi-fold.
To begin with, hearing loss causes the brain to over-work. You have to make an effort to hear things. Now, your brain has to work extra hard where in the past it just happened naturally.
You start to use your deductive reasoning abilities. When attempting to listen, you eliminate the unlikely possibilities to figure out what someone probably said.
This puts lots of added stress on the brain. It’s particularly stressful when your deductive reasoning skills lead you astray. The outcome of this can be misunderstandings, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.
Stress has a major impact on how we process memory. Mental resources that we should be utilizing for memory get tied up when we’re experiencing stress.
And something new begins to happen as hearing loss progresses.
This strain of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they are. This can start a downhill spiral in which ideas of “getting old” when you’re actually not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all familiar with that narrative of a person whose loneliness causes them to lose their grip on the world around them. Human beings are meant to be social. When they’re never with other people, even introverts struggle.
Neglected hearing loss slowly isolates a person. Talking on the phone becomes a chore. You need to have people repeat what they said at social functions making them much less enjoyable. You start to be excluded from conversations by friends and family. You may be off in space feeling separated even when you’re with a room full of people. The radio may not even be there to keep you company over time.
It’s just better to spend more time by yourself. You feel older than others your age and don’t feel like you can relate to them now.
This frequent lack of mental stimulus makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As somebody with untreated hearing loss starts to isolate themselves either physically or even mentally, a chain reaction starts in the brain. There’s no more stimulation reaching parts of the brain. They stop functioning.
Our brain functions are extremely coordinated. Abilities like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all related to hearing.
There will normally be a gradual spread of this functional atrophy to other brain functions, like hearing, which is also connected to memory.
It’s just like the legs of a person who is bedridden. Muscles become weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They may possibly just stop working completely. Learning to walk again might call for physical therapy.
But the brain is different. Once it goes down this slippery slope, it’s hard to reverse the damage. Shrinkage actually happens to the brain. Brain Scans demonstrate this shrinkage.
How memory loss can be stopped by hearing aids
You’re likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It might be barely noticeable. The great news is that it isn’t the hearing loss that leads to memory loss.
It’s untreated hearing loss.
Research has shown that people that have hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aid have the same chance of developing memory loss as someone of the same age with healthy hearing. The progression of memory loss was slowed in individuals who began using their hearing aids after noticing symptoms.
Stay connected and active as you age. If you want to keep your memory intact you need to understand that it’s closely linked to hearing loss. Don’t dismiss your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And talk to us about a solution if you’re not using your hearing aid for some reason.