Did you turn up the TV last night? If you did, it could be a sign of hearing loss. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of an issue recently. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but even so, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also connected to each other. At first, that may seem like bad news (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 hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Connection?
Hearing loss can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you recognize 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 affected by loss of hearing? Well, there are a number of different ways:
- Social isolation: When you have difficulty hearing, you’ll probably encounter some extra struggles communicating. That can lead some people to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory issues. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
- Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early stages of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s going on in the world (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks things are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often results in loss of memory.
- It’s becoming quieter: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. That can cause a certain amount of generalized stress, which can impact your memory.
Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can generally improve your memory.
Consequently, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working precisely. And having difficulty recollecting who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re attempting to keep an eye out for hearing loss.
Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can frequently be hard to notice. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Damage to your hearing is commonly worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you begin noticing symptoms associated with memory loss and get checked out early, there’s a good chance you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where hearing loss has affected your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, the first step is to manage the root hearing problem. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops stressing and struggling. It can take a few months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
The warning signs raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.