Are you forgetting something? It isn’t your imagination. It really is becoming more difficult to remember things in everyday life. Loss of memory seems to develop fairly quickly once it’s detected. The more aware you are of it, the more incapacitating it becomes. Most people don’t realize that there’s a connection between memory loss and hearing loss.
And no, this isn’t simply a natural part of getting older. Losing the ability to process memories always has an underlying reason.
For many that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing impacting your ability to remember? You can slow the onset of memory loss considerably and possibly even get some back if you are aware of the cause.
Here are some facts to consider.
How neglected hearing loss can contribute to memory loss
They’re not unrelated. Cognitive issues, like 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 work extra hard. You have to strain to hear things. Now, your brain needs to work hard where before it just occurred naturally.
You start to use your deductive reasoning abilities. You attempt to figure out what people probably said by removing unlikely possibilities.
Your brain is under extra strain as a result. And when you’re unable to accurately use those deductive reasoning abilities it can be very stressful. This can lead to embarrassment, misconceptions, and even resentment.
How we process memory can be significantly impacted by stress. When we’re stressed out, we’re tying up brain resources that we should be using for memory.
And something new begins to happen as hearing loss worsens.
This strain of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they are. If you’re always thinking that you’re getting old, it can come to be a self fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all familiar with that narrative of somebody whose loneliness causes them to lose their grip on the world around them. Human beings are created to be social. Even people who are introverted have difficulty when they’re never around other people.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. Talking on the phone becomes a chore. You need to have people repeat themselves at social events making them a lot less pleasant. You begin to be excluded from conversations by family and friends. Even when you’re in a setting with a lot of people, you may zone out and feel secluded. 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 that you can relate to them now.
This frequent lack of mental stimulation makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As someone with untreated hearing loss starts to isolate themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction starts in the brain. There’s no more stimulation reaching regions of the brain. When this takes place, those parts of the brain atrophy and quit functioning.
Our brain functions are extremely interconnected. Abilities like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all related to hearing.
There will normally be a slow spread of this functional atrophy to other brain functions, like hearing, which is also connected to memory.
It’s analogous 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 possibly just quit working completely. They might have to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But with the brain, this damage is much more challenging to rehabilitate. The brain actually begins to shrink. Brain Scans reveal this shrinkage.
How memory loss can be stopped by hearing aids
You’re most likely still in the beginning stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It might be barely noticeable. It isn’t the hearing loss itself that is contributing to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is neglected.
Research has shown that people with hearing loss who regularly use 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 started wearing their hearing aids after experiencing symptoms.
As you age, try to remain connected and active. If you want to keep your memory intact you need to understand that it’s closely related to hearing loss. Be mindful of the health of your hearing. Get your hearing examined. And if there’s any reason you aren’t using your hearing aid, please speak with us about treatment options – we can help!