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 might be an indication of hearing loss if so. But you can’t quite remember and that’s an issue. And that’s been happening more frequently, too. While you were working yesterday, you weren’t able to remember your new co-worker’s name. You just met her, but still, it feels like you’re losing your grip on your memory and your hearing. And there’s only one common denominator you can find: you’re getting older.

Now, sure, age can be connected to both hearing loss and memory malfunction. But it turns out these two age-associated symptoms are also related to one another. At first, that might seem like bad news (you have to cope with hearing loss and memory loss at the same time…great). But there can be hidden positives to this connection.

The Connection Between Memory And Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be straining for your brain in a number of ways long before you’re aware of the diminishing prowess of your ears. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the “spillover”.

How does a deficiency of your ear affect so much of your brain? Well, there are a number of different ways:

  • Constant strain: In the early phases of hearing loss especially, your brain will experience a sort of hyper-activation exhaustion. This occurs because, even though there’s no actual input signal, your brain struggles to hear what’s going on in the world (your brain doesn’t recognize that you’re experiencing hearing loss, it just thinks things are really quiet, so it devotes a lot of energy trying to hear in that silent environment). This can leave your brain (and your body) feeling tired. That mental and physical fatigue often leads to loss of memory.
  • Social isolation: When you have a hard time hearing, you’ll likely encounter some added challenges communicating. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can bring about memory issues. The brain will keep getting weaker the less it’s used. In the long run, social separation can cause depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
  • It’s becoming quieter: As your hearing starts to waver, you’re going to experience more quietness (this is particularly true if your hearing loss is neglected). For the regions of your brain that interprets sound, this can be quite dull. This boredom might not appear to be a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause parts of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can impact the function of all of your brain’s systems and that includes memory.

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

Memory loss isn’t exclusive to hearing loss, naturally. Physical or mental illness or fatigue, among other things, can cause loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for instance, can often increase 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 know when things are beginning to go wrong with your hearing.

Memory Loss Frequently Points to Hearing Loss

It’s frequently difficult to recognize the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t develop instantly. Damage to your hearing is usually further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you have your hearing checked soon after noticing some memory loss, you may be able to catch the issue early.

Getting Your Memories Back

In situations where your memory has already been affected by hearing loss, either via mental fatigue or social separation, treatment of your root hearing issue is step one in treatment. The brain will be capable of getting back to its normal activity when it stops stressing and overworking. It can take several months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.

Memory loss can be a practical warning that you need to keep your eye on the state of your hearing and protecting your ears. As the years begin to add up, that’s definitely a lesson worth remembering.

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.