Did you turn up the TV last night? If so, it might be a sign of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been happening more frequently, too. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even 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 symptoms are also related to each other. That might sound like bad news at first (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss at the same time…great). But the reality is, the relationship between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Connection?
Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing loss before you even realize 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:
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a sort of hyper-activation exhaustion. 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 (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. Memory loss and other issues can be the outcome.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. Social isolation will often be the outcome, Again, your brain is lacking vital interaction which can result in memory problems. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to deteriorate. In the long run, social separation can cause depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
- It’s getting quieter: Things will become quieter when your hearing begins to diminish (especially if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. That can cause a certain amount of generalized stress, which can interfere with your memory.
Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body
Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, including fatigue and illness (either mental or physical forms). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally 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 one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.
But these warnings can help you know when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.
Memory Loss Frequently Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can often be hard to detect. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving ailments. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually farther along than most hearing specialists would like. 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.
Getting Your Memories Back
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, either via mental fatigue or social separation, the first step is to manage the root hearing problem. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and overworking. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.