Feel like you may be forgetting something crucial? You’re not imagining it. 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. The majority of people don’t realize that there’s a link between loss of memory and hearing loss.
If you think that this is simply a normal part of the aging process, you would be wrong. Losing the ability to process memories always has a root cause.
Neglected hearing loss is often that reason. Is your memory being affected by hearing loss? You can slow down the onset of memory loss significantly and perhaps even get some back if you are aware of what’s causing it.
This is what you should know.
How untreated hearing loss can contribute to memory loss
There is a relationship. Cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s and memory loss, were 24% more likely in people who suffer from hearing loss.
There are complex interrelated reasons for this.
To begin with, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. Listening to things demands added effort. While this came naturally before, it’s now something your brain has to work to process.
You start to use your deductive reasoning skills. You attempt to figure out what people most likely said by removing unlikely possibilities.
Your brain is under extra strain as a result. It’s particularly stressful when your deductive reasoning abilities let you down. The outcome of this can be misunderstandings, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.
How we process memory can be significantly impacted by stress. When we’re stressed out, we’re spending brain resources that we should be using for memory.
As the hearing loss advances, something new happens.
This stress of having to work harder to hear and needing 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 actually not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of the person who’s so lonely that they begin to lose touch with reality. We humans are social creatures. When they’re never with others, even introverts have a hard time.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. Talking on the phone becomes a chore. Social get-togethers are not so enjoyable because you need to ask people to repeat themselves. You start to be excluded from conversations by family and friends. You may be off in space feeling separated even when you’re in a room full of people. The radio might not even be there to keep you company after a while.
Being alone just seems simpler. You feel like you can’t relate to your friends now because you feel older than them even though you’re not.
This frequent lack of mental stimulus makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As a person who is coping with neglected hearing loss begins to isolate themselves either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction commences in the brain. Regions of the brain are no longer being stimulated. When this occurs, those regions of the brain atrophy and quit functioning.
There’s a high level of interconnectivity between the various parts of the brain. Skills 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 functions, like hearing, which is also connected to memory.
It’s just like the legs of a bedridden person. When they’re sick in bed for a long time, leg muscles become very weak. They may quit working altogether. They may have to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But when it comes to the brain, this damage is much more challenging to rehabilitate. The brain actually starts to shrink. Doctors can see this on brain scans.
How a hearing aid can stop memory loss
You’re likely still in the early stages of hearing loss if you’re reading this. It may be hardly noticeable. The great news is that it isn’t the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.
It’s the fact that the hearing loss is untreated.
Research has revealed that people 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. Those who began wearing hearing aids after symptoms appeared were able to delay the progression significantly.
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 exam. And get in touch with us about a solution if you’re not wearing your hearing aid for some reason.