Did you turn the TV up last night? It might be an indication of hearing loss if you did. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You just met her, but still, it seems like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And there’s just one common denominator you can find: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also linked to each other. That may sound like bad news at first (not only do you have to deal with loss of hearing, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this relationship.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in a number of ways well before you’re aware of the diminishing prowess of your ears. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.
How is so much of your brain impacted by hearing loss? Well, there are a few distinct ways:
- An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and neglected). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be quite dull. This boredom might not seem like a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can result in a certain degree of generalized stress, which can hinder your memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some individuals to seclude themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory problems. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a kind of hyper-activation fatigue. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles 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). Your brain as well as your body will be left fatigued. Memory loss and other issues can be the result.
Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, naturally. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to begin getting fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (either physical or mental varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can usually improve your memory.
This can be a case of your body putting up red flags. Your brain begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working properly. And having trouble recalling who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
Those red flags can be useful if you’re trying to watch out for hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is Commonly Related to Loss of Memory
It’s often difficult to detect the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing conditions. Damage to your hearing is usually further along than you would like by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms associated with memory loss and get checked out early, there’s a good chance you can prevent some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, either via mental exhaustion or social isolation, treatment of your root hearing problem is step one in treatment. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and struggling. It can take a few months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.