How Hearing Loss Impacts Your Memory

Woman struggling with a crossword puzzle because she has hearing loss induced memory loss.

Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? It may be an indication of hearing loss if so. The problem is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s starting become more of an issue recently. You couldn’t even remember what your new co-worker’s name was when you were at work yesterday. You met her recently, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you rack your brains, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.

Now, absolutely, age can be related to both hearing loss and memory failure. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also linked to one another. At first, that may seem like bad news (not only do you have to deal with loss of hearing, you have to work around your failing memory too, wonderful). But there can be unseen positives to this relationship.

Memory And Hearing Loss – What’s The Relationship?

Hearing impairment can be straining for your brain in a number of ways well before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.

How is so much of your brain affected by loss of hearing? There are several ways:

  • Social isolation: When you have difficulty hearing, you’ll probably encounter some additional challenges communicating. That can lead some people to seclude themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can result in memory problems. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to deteriorate. In the long run, social separation can result in anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
  • An abundance of quiet: As your hearing begins to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the parts of your brain that interprets sound, this can be rather dull. This boredom may not seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can cause a certain amount of overall stress, which can impact your memory.
  • Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a sort of hyper-activation fatigue. This occurs because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s happening in the world (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing loss of hearing, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort attempting to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often causes memory loss.

Your Body Has An Early Warning System – It’s Called Memory Loss

Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, of course. There are lots of things that can cause your memories to begin to get fuzzy, including illness or fatigue (either physical or mental forms). As an example, eating right and sleeping well can help help your memory.

Consequently, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. Your brain starts raising red flags when things aren’t working precisely. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.

But these warnings can help you know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.

Memory Loss Often Points to Hearing Loss

It’s often difficult to detect the early signs and symptoms of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Harm to your hearing is usually further along than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, there’s a strong chance you can prevent some damage to your hearing.

Retrieving Your Memory

In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, either via mental fatigue or social separation, treatment of your underlying hearing problem is step one in treatment. When your brain stops struggling and over stressing, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to get used to hearing again.

Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.

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.