Feel like you may be forgetting something crucial? It isn’t your imagination. Remembering day-to-day things is getting more and more difficult. Memory loss seems to progress rather quickly once it’s noticed. It becomes more incapacitating the more aware of it you become. Did you know memory loss is connected to hearing loss?
If you believe that this is simply a normal part of getting older, you would be wrong. There’s always a root cause for the loss of the ability to process memories.
For many that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your memory being impacted by hearing loss? You can slow down the onset of memory loss significantly and perhaps even get some back if you are aware of what’s causing it.
Here are some facts to consider.
How memory loss can be triggered by untreated hearing loss
There is a link. Cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in individuals who have hearing loss.
There are complex interrelated reasons for this.
Initially, the brain will need to work harder to compensate for hearing loss. You have to struggle to hear things. Now, your brain needs to work hard where before it just occurred naturally.
It becomes necessary to utilize deductive reasoning. When attempting to hear, you remove the unlikely choices to figure out what someone probably said.
This puts lots of additional strain on the brain. And when you can’t accurately use those deductive reasoning abilities it can be especially stressful. This can lead to embarrassment, misconceptions, and even resentment.
Stress has a significant effect on how we process memory. When we’re stressed, we’re tying up brain resources that we should be using for memory.
As the hearing loss worsens, something new takes place.
This stress of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they actually are. This can start a downhill spiral in which ideas of “getting old” when you’re still young become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of someone who’s so lonely that they begin to lose touch with reality. Human beings are created to be social. Even introverts struggle when they’re never around other people.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. Talking on the phone becomes a chore. Social gatherings are less enjoyable because you need to ask people to repeat what they said. Family and friends begin to exclude you from conversations. Even when you’re in a room with lots of people, you might zone out and feel alone. In the long run, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
Being alone just seems easier. You feel older than people your age and don’t feel like you can relate to them anymore.
When your brain isn’t regularly stimulated it becomes difficult to process new information.
A chain reaction starts in the brain when someone starts to physically or mentally isolate themselves. Parts of the brain are no longer being stimulated. When this happens, those regions of the brain atrophy and quit functioning.
Our brain functions are extremely coordinated. Skills like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all connected 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 similar to how the legs become atrophied when a person is bedridden for an extended period of time. Muscles become weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They may possibly just quit working completely. They might need to get physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But the brain is different. Once it starts down this slippery slope, it’s difficult to undo the damage. The brain actually begins to shrink. Doctors can observe this on brain scans.
How a hearing aid can prevent memory loss
You’re likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It may be hardly noticeable. The good news is that it’s not the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is untreated.
In this research, individuals who were wearing their hearing aids on a regular basis were no more likely to have memory loss than someone around the same age who has healthy hearing. The progression of memory loss was delayed in people who started using their hearing aids after experiencing symptoms.
As you age, try to remain connected and active. Keep your memories, memory loss is linked to hearing loss. Don’t disregard your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And talk to us about a solution if you’re not using your hearing aid for some reason.