Did you turn up the TV last night? If so, it might be an indication of hearing loss. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of an issue recently. You couldn’t even remember what your new co-worker’s name was when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: you’re getting older.
Now, absolutely, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be connected to each other. At first, that may seem like bad news (you have to cope with memory loss and hearing loss together…great). But there can be hidden positives to this relationship.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways well before you’re aware of the diminishing prowess of your ears. 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? There are numerous ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early stages of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s happening in the world (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are very quiet, so it gives a lot of energy attempting to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. That mental and physical exhaustion often leads to memory loss.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some people to seclude themselves. And isolation can lead to memory problems because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they begin to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
- It’s becoming quieter: Things will become quieter when your hearing begins to wane (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not appear to be a serious problem, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can result in a certain degree of generalized stress, which can interfere with your memory.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, including illness or fatigue (either physical or mental varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can usually improve your memory.
In this way, 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 one of those red flags is failing to remember what your friend said yesterday.
But these warnings can help you know when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Frequently Linked to Loss of Memory
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can often be hard to notice. Hearing loss doesn’t happen instantly. Harm to your hearing is often worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you begin noticing symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good possibility you can prevent some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, treatment of your underlying hearing issue is step one in treatment. The brain will be capable of getting back to its regular activity when it stops stressing and struggling. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
The red flags raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.