Are you forgetting something? It’s not your imagination. Remembering day-to-day things is becoming harder and harder. Once you become aware of it, memory loss seems to progress quickly. It becomes more debilitating the more aware of it you become. Most people aren’t aware that there’s a link between memory loss and hearing loss.
If you believe that this is just a natural part of the aging process, you would be wrong. Losing the ability to process memories always has an underlying reason.
For many that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing impacting your memory? You can delay the onset of memory loss substantially and perhaps even get some back if you are aware of the cause.
Here’s what you should know.
How neglected hearing loss can lead to memory loss
There is a link. In fact, scientists have found that people 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.
Initially, the brain will need to work overtime to overcome hearing loss. Listening to things requires additional effort. Now, your brain has to work extra hard where in the past it just occurred naturally.
It becomes necessary to activate deductive reasoning. You attempt to figure out what people most likely said by eliminating unlikely choices.
This puts lots of extra strain on the brain. It’s especially stressful when your deductive reasoning skills lead you astray. The outcome of this can be misconceptions, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.
Stress has a huge effect on how we process memory. Mental resources that we should be using for memory get tied up when we’re experiencing stress.
And something new begins to occur as hearing loss worsens.
This stress of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they are. This can start a downhill spiral in which thoughts of “getting old” when you’re still young become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all familiar with that story of a person whose loneliness causes them to lose touch with the world around them. Human beings are created to be social. Even introverts struggle when they’re never with others.
A person with neglected hearing loss slowly becomes secluded. It’s harder to talk on the phone. You need to have people repeat what they said at social functions making them much less enjoyable. You start to be excluded from conversations by family and friends. You might 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.
Being alone just seems easier. You feel as if you can’t relate to your friends now because you feel older than them even though you’re not.
When your brain isn’t frequently stimulated it becomes hard to process new information.
As somebody who is coping with neglected hearing loss begins to seclude themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction initiates in the brain. Parts of the brain aren’t being stimulated anymore. When this takes place, those regions of the brain atrophy and quit functioning.
There’s a high degree of interconnectivity between the different regions of the brain. 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 linked to memory.
It’s exactly like the legs of a person who is bedridden. When they are sick in bed for a long time, leg muscles get really weak. They may stop working entirely. Learning to walk again may call for physical therapy.
But the brain is different. Once it goes down this slippery slope, it’s difficult to reverse the damage. The brain actually starts to shrink. Brain Scans reveal this shrinkage.
How a hearing aid can prevent memory loss
You’re most likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It may be hardly noticeable. It isn’t the hearing loss itself that is leading to memory loss, and that’s the good news.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is untreated.
Research has shown that people that have 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. Individuals who started wearing hearing aids after symptoms began were able to slow the progression significantly.
Stay connected and active as you get older. If you want to keep your memory intact you should understand that it’s closely related to hearing loss. Don’t dismiss your hearing health. Schedule a hearing exam. And if there’s any reason you’re not wearing your hearing aid, please talk to us about treatment options – we can help!