Senior couple suffering from hearing loss standing in front of a pink backdrop trying to remember something.

Are you forgetting something? You aren’t imagining it. Remembering everyday things is getting more and more difficult. Memory loss seems to progress rather quickly once it’s noticed. The more you are aware of it, the more debilitating it is. Did you know memory loss is linked to hearing loss?

If you believe that this is just a natural part of the aging process, you would be wrong. There’s always an underlying reason for the loss of the ability to process memories.

For many that cause is untreated hearing loss. Is your hearing impacting your ability to remember? You can delay the development of memory loss significantly and maybe even get some back if you are aware of the cause.

Here’s what you should know.

How neglected hearing loss can result in memory loss

There is a link. In fact, scientists have found that individuals who have neglected hearing loss are 24% more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other extreme cognitive issues.
The reasons for this increased risk are multi-fold.

Mental fatigue

At first, hearing loss causes the brain to work extra hard. Listening to things demands added effort. While this came naturally before, it’s now something your mind has to work to process.

You begin to use your deductive reasoning skills. When attempting to hear, you eliminate the unlikely choices to determine what someone probably said.

This puts a lot of extra stress on the brain. It’s especially stressful when your deductive reasoning skills let you down. The outcome of this can be misconceptions, embarrassment, and sometimes even resentment.

How we process memory can be significantly impacted by stress. Mental resources that we should be utilizing for memory get tied up when we’re dealing with stress.

As the hearing loss advances, something new happens.

Feeling older

You can begin to “feel older” than you actually are when you’re constantly asking people to repeat what they said and struggling to hear. This can start a downhill spiral in which ideas of “getting old” when you’re actually not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Social isolation

We’re all familiar with that story of a person whose loneliness causes them to lose their grip on the world around them. Human beings are meant to be social. Even introverts struggle when they’re never around other people.

A person with disregarded hearing loss slowly becomes secluded. It’s more difficult to have phone conversations. You need to have people repeat what they said at social functions making them much less pleasant. Family and friends begin to exclude you from discussions. You may be off in space feeling isolated even when you’re in a room full of people. In the long run, you might not even have the radio to keep you company.

Being alone just seems easier. You feel older than people your age and don’t feel like you can relate to them anymore.

When your brain isn’t regularly stimulated it becomes hard to process new information.

Brain atrophy

As someone with neglected hearing loss starts to seclude themselves either physically or even mentally, a chain reaction initiates in the brain. Parts of the brain aren’t being stimulated anymore. They stop functioning.

There’s a high level of interconnectivity between the various parts of the brain. Skills like problem solving, learning, speech, and memory are all related to hearing.

There will normally be a slow spread of this functional atrophy to other brain functions, like hearing, which is also linked to memory.

It’s similar to how the legs become atrophied when a person is bedridden for a long time. Muscles get weak when they’re sick in bed over a long time period of time. They could quit working altogether. They may need to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.

But with the brain, this damage is a great deal more difficult to rehabilitate. The brain actually begins to shrink. Doctors can observe this on brain scans.

How memory loss can be stopped by hearing aids

If you’re reading this, then you’re still in the early stages of memory loss. It may be hardly noticeable. It isn’t the hearing loss itself that is contributing to memory loss, and that’s the good news.

It’s neglected hearing loss.

In these studies, people who were using their hearing aids on a regular basis were no more likely to have memory loss than someone around the same age who has healthy hearing. The advancement of memory loss was delayed in individuals who started wearing their hearing aids after experiencing symptoms.

As you get older, try to remain connected and active. If you want to keep your memory intact you need to recognize that it’s closely linked to hearing loss. Pay attention to the health of your hearing. Schedule a hearing exam. And if there’s any reason you aren’t wearing your hearing aid, please consult us about treatment options – we can help!

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