Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If so, it might be a sign of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been occurring more often, also. While you were 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 just one common denominator you can come up with: aging.
Now, sure, age can be connected to both loss of hearing and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (not only do you have to deal with loss of hearing, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the relationship between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Link?
Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in numerous ways well before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. 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? There are several ways:
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing starts to diminish (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds. This boredom might not appear to be a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can result in a certain amount of generalized stress, which can hinder your memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early stages of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s going on in the world (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). Your brain as well as your body will be left exhausted. Memory loss and other issues can be the result.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a hard time hearing. That can lead some people to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can bring about memory problems. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Over time, social separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can cause loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can usually improve your memory.
Consequently, memory is kind of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working properly. And having trouble recollecting 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.
Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss
It’s often difficult to recognize the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t develop instantly. Once you actually recognize the corresponding symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most hearing specialists would want. But if you have your hearing tested soon after detecting some memory loss, you may 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 isolation, the first step is to manage the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be capable of returning to its normal activities. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to get used to hearing again.
The red flags raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. As the years begin to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.