Are you forgetting something?
It’s not your imagination. It really is getting harder to remember things in daily life. Once you notice it, it seems to progress quickly. The more aware you are of it, the more debilitating it becomes.
And no, this isn’t just a natural occurrence of getting older. 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?
By knowing the cause of your memory loss, you can take steps to slow its progression significantly and, in many cases, bring your memory back.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Untreated Hearing Loss Impacts Memory
They’re not unrelated. In fact, researchers have found that those with untreated hearing loss are 24% more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other severe cognitive problems.
The reasons for this increased risk are multi-fold.
At first, hearing loss causes the brain to over-work. You have to make an effort to listen to something. While this came naturally in the past, it’s now something your mind has to work to process.
You start to use your deductive reasoning skills. When trying to listen, you eliminate the unlikely possibilities to determine what someone probably said.
This puts a lot of extra stress on the brain. It’s especially stressful with your deductive reasoning skills lead you astray. This can lead to embarrassment, misunderstandings, and even resentment.
Stress has a major impact on how we process memory. When we’re stressed, we’re tying up brain resources that we should be using for memory.
As the hearing loss progresses, something new happens.
This stress of having to work harder to hear and asking people to repeat themselves makes a person “feel older” than they are. This can start a downhill spiral in which thoughts of “getting old” when you’re still young become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’ve all heard the trope of the person who’s so lonely that they begin to lose touch with reality. Humans are social creatures. Even introverts struggle when they’re never around other people.
Untreated hearing loss slowly isolates a person. It’s harder to talk on the phone. Social gatherings are less enjoyable because you have to ask people to repeat themselves. Family and friends begin to exclude you from conversations. Even when you’re in a room with lots of people, you may zone out and feel alone. Eventually, you may not even have the radio to keep you company.
It’s just easier to spend more time alone. You feel older than people your age and don’t feel like you can relate to them anymore.
This frequent lack of mental stimulation makes it harder for the brain to process new information.
As a person with untreated hearing loss begins to isolate either physically or just mentally, a chain reaction starts in the brain. Parts of the brain aren’t being stimulated anymore. They stop functioning.
Our brain functions are very interconnected. Hearing is connected with speech, memory, learning, problem-solving and other skills.
This lack of function in one area of the brain can slowly spread to other brain functions.
It’s just like the legs of a bed-ridden person. When they are sick in bed for a long time, leg muscles get very weak. They may stop working altogether. They may have to have physical therapy to learn to walk again.
But the brain is different. Once it starts down this slippery slope, it’s hard to reverse the damage. The brain actually begins to shrink. Doctors can see this on brain scans.
How a Hearing Aid Can Stop Memory Loss
If you’re reading this, then you’re still in the early stages of memory loss. It may be barely noticeable. The great news is that it’s not the hearing loss that contributes to memory loss.
It’s untreated hearing loss.
In these studies, those who were wearing their hearing aids regularly were no more likely to have memory loss than a person of a similar age who doesn’t have hearing loss. Those who started wearing hearing aids after symptoms began were able to slow the progression significantly.
Stay connected and active as you age. Keep your memory. Don’t ignore your hearing health. Get your hearing tested. And if there’s any reason you’re not wearing your hearing aid, please talk to your hearing specialist about solutions.