How Memory is Impacted by Hearing Loss

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

Did you turn up the TV last night? If you did, it may be a sign of hearing loss. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. 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 there’s only one common denominator you can find: you’re getting older.

Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also related to one another. That might sound like bad news at first (not only do you have to cope with hearing loss, you have to manage your waning memory too, wonderful). But the reality is, the relationship between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.

The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get strained from hearing loss before you even know you have it. Though the “spillover” effects may start out small, over time they can expand, encompassing your brain, your memory, even your social life.

How does a deficiency of your hearing impact such a large part of your brain? There are numerous ways:

  • An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing begins to wane (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom may not appear to be a serious problem, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can result in a certain degree of overall stress, which can impact your memory.
  • Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll probably encounter some extra obstacles communicating. That can lead some individuals to isolate themselves. And isolation can bring about memory problems because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they start to deteriorate. Social isolation, depression, and memory problems will, over time, set in.
  • Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early stages of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s going on 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 fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often causes memory loss.

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

Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that causes memory loss. Mental or physical illness or fatigue, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. As an example, eating right and sleeping well can help help your memory.

This can be an example of your body throwing up red flags. The red flags go up when things aren’t working properly. 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.

Loss of Memory Often Points to Hearing Loss

The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can often be difficult to recognize. Hearing loss doesn’t develop instantly. Damage to your hearing is often further along than you would like by the time you actually observe the symptoms. However, if you begin noticing symptoms related to memory loss and get checked out early, there’s a strong chance you can avoid some damage to your hearing.

Retrieving Your Memory

In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social separation, treatment of your root hearing problem is the first step in treatment. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and struggling. It can take a few months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.

The warning signs raised by your memory loss 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.

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.