Did you turn the TV up last night? If so, it might be an indication of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been happening more frequently, too. While you were working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And there’s just one common denominator you can find: aging.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also related to one another. That may sound like bad news at first (not only do you have to cope with hearing loss, you have to manage your failing memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this relationship.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in numerous ways long 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 hearing loss? Well, there are a number of 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. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. That can cause a certain amount of generalized stress, which can impact your memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. Social isolation will frequently be the consequence, And isolation can result in memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Over time, social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
- Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a kind of hyper-activation fatigue. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s going on in the world (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it believes 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 exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, including illness or fatigue (either physical or mental forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can often improve your memory.
In this way, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags go up 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 helpful if you’re trying to watch out for hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is Often Linked to Memory Loss
It’s often difficult to recognize the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving afflictions. Damage to your hearing is often further along than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you begin noticing symptoms connected 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 cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, whether it’s through social separation or mental fatigue, treatment of your root hearing issue is the first step in treatment. When your brain stops struggling and straining, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. It can take several months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.
The warning signs raised by your memory loss 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.