Did you turn up the TV last night? It may be a sign of hearing loss if you did. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been occurring more often, too. While working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be declining. And there’s only one common denominator you can think of: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But it’s even more relevant that these two can also be connected to each other. At first, that may sound like bad news (not only do you have to cope with hearing loss, you have to work around your waning memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this connection.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain starts to become strained from hearing loss before you even know you have it. 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? There are numerous ways:
- It’s getting quieter: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (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 interpreting sounds. This boredom may not seem like a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause parts of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can lead to a certain amount of overall stress, which can impact your memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early stages of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be straining to hear what’s going on out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks things are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort attempting to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often results in loss of memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can lead to memory issues because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Eventually, social isolation can cause anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your recollections to start getting fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (either mental or physical forms). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.
This can be a case of your body throwing up red flags. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working correctly. And one of those red flags is failing to remember what your friend said yesterday.
Those red flags can be useful if you’re attempting to keep an eye out for hearing loss.
Loss of Memory Frequently Points to Hearing Loss
It’s often difficult to detect the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving conditions. Damage to your hearing is usually worse than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you have your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, whether it’s through social separation or mental fatigue, the first step is to deal with the root hearing problem. The brain will be capable of getting 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.
Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.