Did you turn up the TV last night? If you did, it might be an indication of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but even so, it seems like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And there’s just one common denominator you can find: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be related to each other. At first, that might seem like bad news (not only do you have to deal with hearing loss, you have to manage your failing memory too, wonderful). But there can be hidden positives to this connection.
The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be taxing for your brain in a number of ways long before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.
How does a deficiency of your ear impact such a large part of your brain? Well, there are a number of distinct ways:
- Constant strain: In the early phases 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 (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical fatigue often causes loss of memory.
- It’s getting quieter: As your hearing begins to diminish, you’re going to experience more quietness (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and neglected). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not seem like a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause parts of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brain’s systems including memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a difficult time hearing. That can lead some people to seclude themselves. And isolation can result in memory problems because, once again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it once did. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t used, they start to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss
Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, of course. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can cause memory loss. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can generally increase your memory.
In this way, memory is kind 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.
Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss
It’s frequently hard to recognize the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slow-moving conditions. Harm to your hearing is commonly further along than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you have your hearing tested soon after detecting some memory loss, you may be able to catch the problem early.
Retrieving Your Memory
In situations where your memory has already been impacted by hearing loss, either via mental exhaustion or social isolation, the first task is to manage the underlying hearing issue. The brain will be able to get back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and struggling. Be patient, it can take a bit for your brain to adjust to hearing again.
The red flags raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least managing your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.