Did you turn the TV up last night? If so, it could be a sign of hearing loss. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been happening more frequently, too. While you were working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. You met her recently, but even so, it seems like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And there’s only one common denominator you can come up with: you’re getting older.
Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also connected to one another. That may sound like bad news initially (you have to deal with memory loss and hearing loss at the same time…great). 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 loss can be straining for your brain in a number of ways long before you’re aware of the diminishing prowess of your ears. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How is so much of your brain impacted by loss of hearing? Well, there are a number of different ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s going on in the world (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical exhaustion often causes loss of memory.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing starts to wane (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the regions of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom might not seem like a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can cause a certain amount of generalized stress, which can hinder your memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can result in memory issues because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. Physical or mental illness or fatigue, among other things, can trigger memory loss. As an example, eating right and sleeping well can help help your memory.
In this way, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags come out when things aren’t working right. And having trouble recalling who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.
But these warnings can help you know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.
Hearing Loss is Frequently Connected to Memory Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can often be hard to detect. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Damage to your hearing is usually worse than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a strong possibility you can avoid 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 isolation or mental exhaustion, the first step is to deal with the root hearing problem. The brain will be able to get back to its normal activity when it stops straining and struggling. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s certainly a lesson worth remembering.