Feel like you may be forgetting something important? You aren’t imagining it. It really is becoming more difficult to remember things in everyday life. Memory loss seems to develop fairly quickly once it’s noticed. The more you are aware of it, the more incapacitating it is. The majority of people aren’t aware that there’s a connection between loss of memory and hearing loss.
And no, this isn’t simply a natural part of aging. Losing the ability to process memories always has a root cause.
For many people that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing affecting your memory? By identifying the cause of your memory loss, you can take measures to slow down its development substantially and, in many cases, bring your memory back.
Here are a few facts to consider.
How untreated hearing loss can lead to memory loss
They’re not unrelated. In fact, scientists have found that those with untreated hearing loss are 24% more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other profound cognitive problems.
There are complicated interrelated reasons for this.
At first, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. You have to strain to hear things. Now, your brain needs to work hard where in the past it just occurred naturally.
You begin to use your deductive reasoning abilities. You attempt to figure out what people probably said by eliminating unlikely choices.
This puts a lot of added stress on the brain. It’s particularly stressful when your deductive reasoning abilities lead you astray. 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 using for memory get tied up when we’re dealing with stress.
As the hearing loss worsens, something new takes place.
This strain of having to work overtime to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they are. This can begin a downhill spiral in which thoughts of “getting old” when you’re still young become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all familiar with that story of a person whose loneliness causes them to lose their grip on the world around them. Human beings are created to be social. When they’re never with other people, even introverts have a hard time.
A person with untreated hearing loss gradually becomes secluded. It’s harder to have phone conversations. You need people to repeat themselves at social functions making them much less enjoyable. Family and friends begin to exclude you from conversations. You may be off in space feeling separated even when you’re in a room full of people. In the long run, you may not even have the radio to keep you company.
Being on your own just seems easier. You feel older than people your age and don’t feel like you can relate to them now.
When your brain isn’t regularly stimulated it becomes hard to process new information.
A chain reaction starts in the brain when someone begins to physically or mentally isolate themselves. Regions of the brain are no longer being stimulated. They stop 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 just like the legs of a bedridden person. Muscles get weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They may possibly just stop working completely. They might have to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But when it comes to the brain, this damage is much more challenging to rehabilitate. The brain actually starts to shrink. Doctors can see this on brain scans.
How a hearing aid can stop memory loss
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably still in the beginning stages of memory loss. It may be hardly noticeable. It isn’t the hearing loss itself that is contributing to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s untreated hearing loss.
Research has shown that people that have hearing loss who regularly wear their hearing aid have the same chance of developing memory loss as somebody of the same age with healthy hearing. The progression of memory loss was slowed in people who began wearing their hearing aids after experiencing symptoms.
Stay connected and active as you age. Keep your memories, memory loss is linked to hearing loss. Don’t ignore your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And if there’s any reason you aren’t using your hearing aid, please talk to us about solutions – we can help!