Senior couple suffering from hearing loss standing in front of a pink backdrop trying to remember something.

Are you forgetting something? It’s not your imagination. It really is getting more difficult to remember things in daily life. Loss of memory seems to develop fairly quickly once it’s noticed. It becomes more debilitating the more you become aware of it. Did you know memory loss is connected to hearing loss?

If you think that this is just a natural part of the aging process, you would be wrong. There’s always an underlying reason for the loss of the ability to process memories.

For many people that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your ability to remember being affected by hearing loss? You can slow the onset of memory loss significantly and possibly even get some back if you are aware of what’s causing it.

Here are some facts to think about.

How untreated hearing loss can result in memory loss

There is a relationship. Cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in individuals who suffer from hearing loss.
There are complex interrelated reasons for this.

Mental fatigue

Initially, the brain will have to work overtime to compensate for hearing loss. You have to struggle to listen to something. Now, your brain needs to work hard where before it just occurred naturally.

It becomes necessary to utilize deductive reasoning. You attempt to determine what people most likely said by removing unlikely possibilities.

This puts lots of added stress on the brain. It’s particularly stressful when your deductive reasoning abilities lead you astray. The consequence of this can be misconceptions, embarrassment, and sometimes even bitterness.

How we process memory can be significantly affected by stress. Mental resources that we should be using for memory get tied up when we’re dealing with stress.

And something new starts to occur as hearing loss progresses.

Feeling older

You can begin to “feel older” than you are when you’re constantly asking people to repeat what they said and struggling to hear. This can start a downhill spiral in which thoughts of “getting old” when you’re actually not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Social isolation

We’ve all heard the trope of somebody who’s so lonely that they begin to lose touch with reality. Human beings are created to be social. Even introverts struggle when they’re never around others.

A person with disregarded hearing loss slowly becomes secluded. It’s more difficult to have phone conversations. Social gatherings are less enjoyable because you have to ask people to repeat what they said. You begin to be excluded from conversations by family and friends. You may be off in space feeling secluded 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.

It’s just easier to spend more time alone. You feel older than others your age and don’t feel that you can relate to them anymore.

When your brain isn’t regularly stimulated it becomes difficult to process new information.

Brain atrophy

As a person with untreated hearing loss begins to isolate themselves either physically or even mentally, a chain reaction initiates in the brain. There’s no more stimulation going to parts of the brain. They stop functioning.

Our brain functions are very coordinated. Abilities like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all connected to hearing.

There will usually be a gradual 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 get weak when they’re sick in bed over a period of time. They may possibly just quit working completely. Learning to walk again might call for 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 see this on brain scans.

How a hearing aid can stop memory loss

You’re most likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It might be hardly noticeable. The good news is that it’s not the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.

It’s neglected hearing loss.

Research has shown that individuals with hearing loss who regularly wear their hearing aid have the same risk of developing memory loss as someone of the same age with healthy hearing. The progression of memory loss was slowed in individuals 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 should recognize that it’s closely linked to hearing loss. Don’t ignore your hearing health. Schedule a hearing test. And talk to us about a solution if you’re not using your hearing aid for some reason.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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