How Memory is Impacted by Hearing Loss


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

Did you turn the TV up last night? If you did, it could be a sign of hearing loss. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of a problem recently. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. You met her recently, but even so, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you think about it, you can only come up with one common cause: aging.

Certainly, both memory and hearing can be impacted by age. But it’s even more significant that these two can also be connected to each other. At first, that might seem like bad news (not only do you have to cope with hearing loss, you have to work around your failing memory too, wonderful). But there can be unseen positives to this connection.

The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be straining for your brain in numerous ways long 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 impacted by loss of hearing? Well, there are several different ways:

  • Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s taking place in the world (it puts in a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it thinks that everything is quiet). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling exhausted. That mental and physical fatigue often causes loss of memory.
  • Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. Social isolation will frequently be the consequence, Once again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory issues. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, develop.
  • An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing begins to diminish (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, rather boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom may not seem like a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to atrophy or weaken. This can impact the function of all of your brain’s systems including memory.

Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body

Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, of course. Mental or physical illness or fatigue, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.

In this way, memory is kind of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags go up when things aren’t working properly. And having difficulty recollecting who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.

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

Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss

The signs and symptoms of hearing impairment can frequently be hard to recognize. Hearing loss doesn’t happen over night. Damage to your hearing is often worse than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you start identifying symptoms associated with memory loss and get checked out early, there’s a strong possibility you can prevent some damage to your hearing.

Retrieving Your Memory

In instances where hearing loss has affected your memory, whether it’s through social isolation or mental fatigue, the first task is to deal with the underlying hearing problem. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be able to return to its regular activities. Be patient, it can take a while for your brain to get used to hearing again.

The red flags raised by your loss of memory could help you be a little more aware of protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. That’s a lesson to remember as you get older.

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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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