Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If you did, it may be a sign of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been happening more frequently, also. While working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And there’s only one common denominator you can think of: you’re getting older.
Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also connected to each other. That might sound like bad news at first (you have to deal with hearing loss and memory loss at the same time…great). But the reality is, the link between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Link?
Hearing impairment can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you’re aware of the decrease in your hearing. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.
How does a deficiency of your hearing impact such a large part of your brain? Well, there are several distinct ways:
- It’s becoming quieter: As your hearing starts to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially 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 seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. This can interfere with the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some people to seclude themselves. Once again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory issues. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they begin to deteriorate. Eventually, social isolation can cause anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a kind of hyper-activation exhaustion. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s taking place 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 external sounds are very quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort trying to hear in that quiet environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. Memory loss and other issues can be the result.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to begin to get fuzzy, such as illness or fatigue (either mental or physical forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally increase 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 properly. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.
Those red flags can be helpful if you’re attempting to watch out for hearing loss.
Memory Loss Frequently Indicates Hearing Loss
It’s often difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving afflictions. Harm to your hearing is often further along than you would like by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you start noticing symptoms connected to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a good possibility you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where hearing loss has affected your memory, whether it’s through social isolation or mental fatigue, the first step is to deal with the underlying hearing problem. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops straining and struggling. It can take a few months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. As the years start to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.