Feel like you might be forgetting something crucial? It isn’t your imagination. Remembering day-to-day things is getting more and more difficult. Once you become aware of it, memory loss seems to progress quickly. The more aware you are of it, the more incapacitating it is. Did you know memory loss is linked to hearing loss?
If you believe that this is just a normal part of getting older, you would be wrong. Losing the ability to process memories always has an underlying reason.
For many people that cause is neglected hearing loss. Is your memory being affected by hearing loss? You can slow the onset of memory loss considerably and possibly even get some back if you are aware of the cause.
This is what you should know.
How memory loss can be triggered by untreated hearing loss
They’re not unrelated. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that people who have untreated hearing loss are 24% more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other severe cognitive issues.
The reasons for this higher risk are multi-fold.
To begin with, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. Listening to things takes extra effort. Now, your brain needs to work extra hard where before it just occurred naturally.
You begin to use your deductive reasoning abilities. You try to figure out what people most likely said by removing unlikely possibilities.
This puts lots of extra stress on the brain. It’s particularly stressful when your deductive reasoning skills let you down. The outcome of this can be misconceptions, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.
How we process memory can be seriously affected by stress. Mental resources that we should be utilizing for memory get tied up when we’re experiencing stress.
As the hearing loss worsens, something new occurs.
You can begin to “feel older” than you actually are when you’re constantly asking people to repeat what they said and straining to hear. If you’re always thinking that you’re getting old, it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of the person who’s so lonely that they start to lose touch with reality. Humans are social creatures. Even people who are introverted struggle when they’re never around others.
A person with untreated hearing loss gradually becomes isolated. It’s more difficult to talk on the phone. You need people to repeat themselves at social functions making them much less enjoyable. You start to be excluded from conversations by friends and family. Even when you’re in a setting with lots of people, you might space out and feel secluded. Eventually, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
It’s just easier to spend more time alone. You feel older than others your age and don’t feel that you can relate to them now.
This regular lack of mental stimulation makes it more difficult for the brain to process new information.
As a person who is coping with untreated hearing loss starts to isolate themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction initiates in the brain. Parts of the brain are no longer being stimulated. They stop working.
There’s a high level of interconnectivity between the various regions of the brain. Skills like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all related to hearing.
There will usually be a gradual spread of this functional atrophy to other brain activity, like hearing, which is also connected to memory.
It’s just like the legs of a person who is bedridden. Muscles become weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They could stop working entirely. They might need to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But with the brain, this damage is a great deal more challenging to rehabilitate. The brain actually begins to shrink. Brain Scans show this shrinkage.
How a hearing aid can prevent memory loss
You’re most likely still in the beginning stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It may be hardly noticeable. The great news is that it isn’t the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is untreated.
Studies have shown that people that have hearing loss who regularly use their hearing aid have the same chance of developing memory loss as somebody of the same age with healthy hearing. Individuals who started wearing hearing aids after symptoms began were able to delay the progression considerably.
As you get older, try to remain connected and active. If you want to keep your memory intact you should understand that it’s closely related to hearing loss. Don’t dismiss your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And if there’s any reason you aren’t wearing your hearing aid, please talk to us about solutions – we can help!