How Memory is Impacted by Hearing Loss

Woman struggling with a crossword puzzle because she has hearing loss induced memory loss.

Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? If so, it might be a sign of hearing loss. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s been occurring more frequently, too. While you were working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your hearing and your memory seem to be faltering. And there’s only one common denominator you can come up with: aging.

Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also linked to each other. That might sound like bad news initially (not only do you have to deal with hearing loss, you have to manage your failing memory too, wonderful). But the truth is, the connection between memory and hearing loss can often be a blessing in disguise.

The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing impairment 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 does a deficiency of your hearing impact so much of your brain? There are several ways:

  • Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. 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 puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without recognizing you have hearing loss, it believes that everything is quiet). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often results in loss of memory.
  • An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds. This boredom might not appear to be a serious problem, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can lead to a certain amount of overall stress, which can hinder your memory.
  • Social isolation: Communication will become harder when you have a hard time hearing. That can lead some individuals to isolate 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 issues will, over time, set in.

Memory Loss is an Early Warning System For Your Body

Clearly, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that triggers memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start to get fuzzy, and that includes illness or fatigue (either mental or physical forms). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.

This can be a case of your body putting up red flags. The red flags go up when things aren’t working right. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.

But these warnings can help you recognize when things are starting to go wrong with your hearing.

Loss of Memory Frequently Points to Hearing Loss

It’s often difficult to detect the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing ailments. Harm to your hearing is often worse than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you get your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.

Getting Your Memories Back

In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, whether it’s through social separation or mental exhaustion, treatment of your underlying hearing issue is step one in treatment. The brain will be capable of getting back to its regular activity when it stops straining and struggling. It can take several months for your brain to get used to hearing again, so be patient.

The warning signs raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.