Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? It may be a sign of hearing loss if so. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been occurring more frequently, also. While working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. You met her recently, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you think about it, you can only formulate one common cause: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also 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 failing memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this connection.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you recognize 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 loss of hearing? There are numerous ways:
- It’s becoming quieter: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. This can interfere with the function of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a type of hyper-activation exhaustion. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s going on out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (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 and your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to memory loss.
- Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll probably experience some extra challenges communicating. Social isolation will commonly be the result, And isolation can bring about 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. In the long run, social separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. Mental or physical illness or fatigue, among other things, can cause memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can generally increase 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 having difficulty recalling who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you recognize when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Frequently Related to Memory Loss
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss can often be hard to notice. Hearing loss doesn’t develop instantly. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing tends to be farther along than most hearing specialists would want. But if you get 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, either via mental fatigue or social separation, the first task is to deal with the underlying hearing problem. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
The red flags raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.