Are you forgetting something? You aren’t imagining it. It really is getting more difficult to remember things in everyday life. Loss of memory seems to develop fairly quickly once it’s detected. The more you are aware of it, the more incapacitating it becomes. Most people don’t realize that there’s a connection between memory loss and loss of hearing.
And no, this isn’t just a normal occurrence of getting older. There’s always an underlying reason for the loss of the ability to process memories.
For many individuals that cause is neglected hearing loss. Is your ability to remember being affected by hearing loss? By identifying the cause of your memory loss, you can take measures to slow down its advancement considerably and, in many cases, bring back your memory.
Here’s what you need to know.
How neglected hearing loss can contribute to memory loss
There is a link. Cognitive issues, including Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in individuals who have hearing loss.
The reasons for this higher risk are multi-fold.
To begin with, hearing loss causes the brain to over-work. You have to struggle to listen to something. Now, your brain has to work hard where in the past it just happened naturally.
You start to use your deductive reasoning abilities. You attempt to determine what people most likely said by removing unlikely choices.
This puts a lot of additional strain on the brain. And when you can’t accurately use those deductive reasoning abilities it can be especially stressful. The consequence of this can be misunderstandings, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.
How we process memory can be seriously impacted by stress. When we’re stressed out, we’re spending brain resources that we should be using for memory.
As the hearing loss progresses, something new takes place.
You can begin to “feel older” than you actually are when you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves and struggling to hear. If you’re always thinking that you’re getting old, it can come to be a self fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of the person who’s so lonely that they begin to lose touch with reality. Human beings are meant to be social. When they’re never with other people, even introverts struggle.
A person with neglected hearing loss slowly becomes isolated. It’s more difficult to talk on the phone. You need to have people repeat what they said at social functions making them a lot less pleasant. Friends and family start to exclude you from conversations. You might be off in space feeling isolated even when you’re in a room full of people. Eventually, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
It’s just better to spend more time alone. You feel as if you can’t relate to your friends anymore because you feel older than them even though you’re not.
This frequent lack of mental stimulus makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As somebody who is coping with neglected hearing loss begins to seclude themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction initiates in the brain. There’s no more stimulation going to parts of the brain. They stop working.
There’s a high degree of interconnectivity between the various regions of the brain. Abilities like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all linked to hearing.
This lack of function in one region of the brain can gradually move to other brain functions including hearing. Memory loss is connected to this process.
It’s similar to how the legs become atrophied when somebody is bedridden for a long time. Muscles become weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They could stop working altogether. Learning to walk again might require physical therapy.
But the brain is different. Once it starts down this slippery slope, it’s hard to undo the damage. Shrinkage actually happens to the brain. Doctors can observe this on brain scans.
How a hearing aid can stop memory loss
You’re likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. You may not even hardly notice it. It’s not the hearing loss itself that is contributing to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s untreated hearing loss.
In this research, those who were wearing their hearing aids on a regular basis were no more likely to have memory loss than a person around the same age who has healthy hearing. People who began using hearing aids after symptoms began were able to delay the progression substantially.
As you get older, try to stay connected and active. If you want to keep your memory intact you need to recognize that it’s closely related to hearing loss. Don’t dismiss your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And get in touch with us about a solution if you’re not using your hearing aid for some reason.