Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If you did, it may be a sign of hearing loss. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. 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 faltering. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to each other. That may sound like bad news initially (you have to deal with memory loss and hearing loss together…great). But there can be hidden positives to this relationship.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing loss before you even know 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 affected by hearing loss? Well, there are a number of specific ways:
- An abundance of quiet: As your hearing starts to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is particularly 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. This boredom may not seem like a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can lead to a certain degree of overall stress, which can impact your memory.
- Social isolation: When you have trouble hearing, you’ll likely experience some additional struggles communicating. That can lead some individuals to isolate themselves. Once again, your brain is lacking vital interaction which can bring about memory problems. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to weaken. Over time, social isolation can cause anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
- Constant strain: In the early stages of hearing loss especially, your brain is going to experience a sort of hyper-activation fatigue. That’s because your brain will be struggling to hear what’s taking place 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). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often results in loss of memory.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, naturally. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to start getting fuzzy, including illness or fatigue (either physical or mental varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can often increase your memory.
In this way, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. 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.
Those red flags can be useful if you’re attempting to watch out for hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is Frequently Connected to Memory Loss
It’s frequently difficult to recognize the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing afflictions. Damage to your hearing is often 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.
Retrieving Your Memory
In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, the first task is to deal with the underlying hearing problem. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops straining and overworking. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.