How Memory is Impacted by Hearing Loss

Woman struggling with a crossword puzzle because she has hearing loss induced memory loss.

Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? It may be an indication of hearing loss if you did. But you can’t quite remember and that’s a problem. And that’s been happening more frequently, too. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be declining. And as you think about it, you can only formulate one common cause: aging.

Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also connected to each other. At first, that might seem like bad news (you have to cope with memory loss and hearing loss together…great). But the reality is, the relationship between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.

The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get strained from hearing impairment 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 does a deficiency of your hearing impact so much of your brain? There are numerous ways:

  • Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a sort of hyper-activation fatigue. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s going on in the world (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks external sounds are very quiet, so it gives a lot of effort attempting to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. Loss of memory and other issues can be the outcome.
  • Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is lacking vital interaction which can lead to memory problems. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
  • An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing starts to diminish (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it starts to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.

Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss

Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that triggers memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start getting fuzzy, including illness or fatigue (either mental or physical forms). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.

This can be an example of your body throwing up red flags. The red flags go up when things aren’t working right. 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 starting to go wrong with your hearing.

Loss of Memory Often Indicates Hearing Loss

The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can frequently be hard to recognize. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing conditions. Harm to your hearing is commonly further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you begin identifying symptoms associated with 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 affected by hearing loss, whether it’s through social separation or mental fatigue, the first step is to treat 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 re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.

The red flags raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.

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