How Hearing Loss Impacts Your Memory

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

Last night, did you turn the volume up on your TV? If so, it could be an indication of hearing loss. The challenge is… you can’t quite remember. And that’s becoming more of an issue recently. You couldn’t even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. Yes, you just met her but your memory and your hearing seem to be faltering. And there’s just one common denominator you can find: aging.

Certainly, both hearing and memory can be impacted by age. But it turns out these two age-associated conditions are also related to each other. That may sound like bad news at first (you have to cope with memory loss and hearing loss at the same time…great). But there can be unseen positives to this relationship.

The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing impairment 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 is so much of your brain affected by hearing loss? There are numerous ways:

  • Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early phases of hearing loss. That’s because your brain will be straining to hear what’s going on out in the world, even though there’s no input signal (your brain doesn’t know that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks external sounds are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of effort trying to hear in that silent environment). Your brain and your body will be left fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often results in loss of memory.
  • Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely encounter some added struggles communicating. Social isolation will often be the outcome, And isolation can lead to memory issues because, again, your brain isn’t getting as much interaction as it used to. The brain will continue to weaken the less it’s used. Over time, social isolation can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
  • It’s getting quieter: As your hearing starts to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is especially true if your hearing loss is neglected). This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain normally responsible for the interpretation of sounds. And if the brain isn’t used it begins to weaken and atrophy. That can result in a certain degree of overall stress, which can interfere with your memory.

Loss of memory is an Early Warning System For Your Body

Memory loss isn’t unique to hearing loss, of course. There are plenty of things that can cause your recollections to start getting fuzzy, such as fatigue and illness (either physical or mental varieties). As an example, eating healthy and sleeping well can help improve your memory.

Consequently, memory is kind of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags come out when things aren’t working right. And having difficulty recalling who said what in yesterday’s meeting is one of those red flags.

Those red flags can be useful if you’re trying to keep an eye out for hearing loss.

Hearing Loss is Commonly Related to Loss of Memory

It’s often difficult to detect the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing conditions. Harm to your hearing is often worse than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. But if you have your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the problem early.

Retrieving Your Memory

In cases where hearing loss has affected your memory, whether it’s through social isolation or mental exhaustion, the first step is to deal with the underlying hearing issue. When your brain stops overworking and straining, it’ll be able to return to its normal activities. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.

Loss of memory can be a practical warning that you need to pay attention to the state of your hearing and safeguarding your ears. 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.