Feel like you might be forgetting something important? You’re not imagining it. It really is becoming harder to remember things in daily life. Once you notice it, memory loss seems to advance quickly. The more aware you are of it, the more incapacitating it becomes. Most people aren’t aware that there’s a connection between loss of memory and loss of hearing.
And no, this isn’t simply a natural part of getting older. Losing the ability to process memories always has a root cause.
For many that cause is neglected hearing loss. Is your hearing affecting your memory? You can slow the onset of memory loss significantly and possibly even get some back if you know what’s causing it.
Here are a few facts to consider.
How untreated hearing loss can lead to memory loss
They’re not unrelated. In fact, researchers have found that those who have untreated hearing loss are 24% more likely to experience dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other profound cognitive problems.
There are complex interrelated reasons for this.
At first, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. Listening to things takes additional effort. Now, your brain has to work extra hard where before it just happened naturally.
You start to use your deductive reasoning skills. You try to figure out what people probably said by eliminating unlikely choices.
Your brain is under extra strain because of this. And when you can’t accurately use those deductive reasoning abilities it can be very stressful. This can cause embarrassment, misunderstandings, and even bitterness.
How we process memory can be significantly affected by stress. When we’re stressed out, we’re spending brain resources that we should be using for memory.
And something new starts to happen as hearing loss advances.
This strain of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat what they said makes a person “feel older” than they actually are. If you’re constantly thinking that you’re getting old, it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all familiar with that story of somebody whose loneliness causes them to lose touch with the world around them. Humans are social creatures. Even people who are introverted have difficulty when they’re never with others.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. It’s more difficult to talk on the phone. Social get-togethers are less enjoyable because you need to ask people to repeat what they said. Friends and family begin to exclude you from conversations. You may be off in space feeling separated even when you’re with a room full of people. In the long run, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
Being on your own just seems easier. You feel as if you can’t relate to your friends anymore because you feel older than them even though you’re not.
This regular lack of mental stimulation makes it more difficult for the brain to process new information.
As someone who is coping with untreated hearing loss begins to seclude themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction commences in the brain. Parts of the brain aren’t being stimulated anymore. When this happens, those parts of the brain atrophy and stop functioning.
There’s a high level of interconnectivity between the various parts of the brain. Abilities like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all linked to hearing.
There will typically be a gradual spread of this functional atrophy to other brain activity, like hearing, which is also connected to memory.
It’s exactly 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 the brain is different. Once it goes down this slippery slope, it’s difficult to undo the damage. Shrinkage actually happens to the brain. Brain Scans reveal this shrinkage.
How a hearing aid can prevent memory loss
You’re probably still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. You may not even barely notice it. It isn’t the hearing loss itself that is leading to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s neglected hearing loss.
In this research, individuals who were wearing their hearing aids regularly were no more likely to have memory loss than someone around the same age who has healthy hearing. The advancement of memory loss was delayed in individuals who started using their hearing aids after noticing symptoms.
Stay connected and active as you age. Keep your memories, memory loss is linked to hearing loss. Don’t disregard your hearing health. Schedule a hearing test. And if there’s any reason you’re not using your hearing aid, please consult us about treatment options – we can help!