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? It may be an indication of hearing loss if you did. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s becoming more of an issue recently. While working yesterday, you couldn’t even remember your new co-worker’s name. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And as you rack your brains, you can only formulate one common cause: aging.

Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also related to one another. At first, that may sound like bad news (not only do you have to deal with hearing loss, you have to work around your waning memory too, wonderful). But there can be unseen positives to this relationship.

The Link Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Hearing impairment can be taxing for your brain in numerous ways well before you recognize the decrease in your hearing. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.

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

  • Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely experience some additional obstacles communicating. That can push some people to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory issues. When those (metaphorical) muscles aren’t engaged, they begin to weaken. In the long run, social separation can cause depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
  • An abundance of quiet: As your hearing begins to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (particularly if your hearing loss goes unnoticed and untreated). This can be, well, rather 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 lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to atrophy or weaken. That can lead to a certain degree of overall stress, which can impact your memory.
  • Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a type of hyper-activation fatigue. This happens because, even though there’s no external input signal, your brain strains to hear what’s happening in the world (it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear because without realizing you have hearing loss, it believes that everything is quiet). Your brain and your body will be left exhausted. That mental and physical exhaustion often causes loss of memory.

Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body

Obviously, having hearing loss isn’t the only thing that leads to memory loss. There are plenty of things that can cause your memories to start getting fuzzy, and that includes fatigue and illness (either mental or physical varieties). Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can generally increase your memory.

This can be a case of your body putting up red flags. Your brain begins to raise red flags when things aren’t working properly. And having trouble remembering 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.

Hearing Loss is Commonly Connected to Memory Loss

The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can frequently be difficult to notice. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing conditions. Damage to your hearing is commonly further along than you would like by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you get your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.

Retrieving Your Memory

In cases where hearing loss has impacted your memory, whether it’s through social separation or mental exhaustion, treatment of your root hearing issue is step one in treatment. The brain will be able to get back to its regular activity when it stops straining and struggling. It can take several 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 managing 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.