Feel like you might be forgetting something crucial? You’re not imagining it. Remembering day-to-day things is getting harder and harder. Loss of memory seems to develop rather quickly once it’s detected. The more you are aware of it, the more debilitating it is. Most people aren’t aware that there’s a link between memory loss and hearing loss.
If you believe that this is simply a natural part of getting older, you would be wrong. There’s always an underlying reason for the loss of the ability to process memories.
For many that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing affecting your ability to remember? You can slow down the onset of memory loss substantially and possibly even get some back if you are aware of what’s causing it.
Here are some facts to think about.
How neglected hearing loss can result in memory loss
They aren’t unrelated. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that those with neglected hearing loss are 24% more likely to experience dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other profound cognitive issues.
The reasons for this higher risk are multi-fold.
At first, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. You have to make an effort to hear things. While this came naturally before, it’s now something your mind needs to work to process.
You start to use your deductive reasoning skills. When trying to hear, you remove the unlikely choices to figure out what someone most likely said.
Your brain is under added strain because of this. 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.
Stress has a significant effect on how we process memory. When we’re stressed out, we’re spending brain resources that we should be utilizing for memory.
As the hearing loss advances, something new takes place.
You can begin to “feel older” than you are when you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves and straining to hear. This can start a downhill spiral in which thoughts of “getting old” when you’re still young become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of someone who’s so lonely that they start to lose touch with reality. Humans are social creatures. When they’re never with other people, even introverts have a hard time.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. It’s more difficult to have phone conversations. Social gatherings are less enjoyable because you need to ask people to repeat what they said. You begin to be excluded from conversations by friends and family. Even when you’re in a room with lots of people, you might zone out and feel alone. Eventually, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.
It’s just easier to spend more time alone. You feel like you can’t relate to your friends now because you feel older than them even though you’re not.
This regular lack of mental stimulation makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As someone with neglected hearing loss begins to seclude themselves either physically or even mentally, a chain reaction commences in the brain. There’s no more stimulation going to parts of the brain. When this takes place, those regions of the brain atrophy and stop working.
Our brain functions are extremely coordinated. Hearing is connected with speech, memory, learning, problem-solving, and other abilities.
This lack of function in one region of the brain can gradually spread to other brain functions like hearing. Loss of memory is connected to this process.
It’s similar to how the legs become atrophied when a person is bedridden for a long time. When they are sick in bed for a long time, leg muscles become really weak. They may possibly just stop working completely. Learning to walk again might require physical therapy.
But the brain is different. Once it goes down this slippery slope, it’s hard to undo the damage. The brain actually begins to shrink. Doctors can observe this on brain scans.
How memory loss can be prevented by hearing aids
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably still in the beginning stages of memory loss. You might not even hardly be aware of it. The good news is that it isn’t the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is neglected.
In this research, people who were wearing their hearing aids regularly were no more likely to have memory loss than somebody around the same age who doesn’t have hearing loss. The progression of memory loss was slowed in people who began using their hearing aids after experiencing symptoms.
As you age, try to remain connected and active. 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 wearing your hearing aid, please speak with us about treatment options – we can help!