Did you turn the TV up last night? It may be a sign of hearing loss if you did. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been happening 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 seems like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And there’s only one common denominator you can think of: you’re getting older.
Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory malfunction. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be related to each other. At first, that may sound like bad news (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss at the same time…great). But the reality is, the connection between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.
The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain starts to become taxed 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 such a large part of your brain? Well, there are several distinct ways:
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a type of hyper-activation fatigue. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s happening out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear in that quiet environment). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to memory loss.
- An abundance of quiet: As your hearing starts to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. This can impact the function of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. That can lead some people to isolate themselves. And isolation can result in memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they start to deteriorate. Eventually, social isolation can cause 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 memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can usually increase your memory.
This can be a case of your body putting up red flags. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working properly. And one of those red flags is failing to remember what your friend said yesterday.
But these warnings can help you know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.
Memory Loss Frequently Points to Hearing Loss
It’s often difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most hearing specialists would like. But if you have your hearing tested soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.
Retrieving Your Memory
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 issue. The brain will be capable of getting back to its regular activity when it stops straining and struggling. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
The warning signs raised by your memory loss 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.