Are you hard of hearing and tend to forget things? Well then, you’re not alone. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University found that there is a correlation between hearing loss and memory problems.
Hearing loss, which impacts about 28.8 million people in the United States alone, is generally accepted as a part of the aging process since two-thirds of our senior population over the age of 70 suffer from some form of hearing loss. The Johns Hopkins study showed that a significant number of senior citizens who had hearing loss also saw a steady amount of cognitive decline, which was much higher than the seniors in the study who had no hearing issues.
In addition, there is also a higher prevalence of dementia among hearing loss sufferers. Many people associate memory loss and dementia or Alzheimer’s with each other because memory loss is one of the first key symptoms of dementia. Could hearing loss now be treated as another warning sign for a more serious problem?
What Is the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Memory Loss?
First thing’s first: it’s important to note that as far as we know, hearing loss does not cause memory loss or dementia. There are no studies that show causation, only a connection. Researchers are still trying to determine what that connection means.
One theory is that your brain has to work overtime if you’re constantly straining to hear conversations and struggle to separate important sounds from background noise. This constant brain drain takes up quite a bit of your mental energy, which allows for less of it to be used on cognitive functions like your memory.
Another effect of hearing loss, one which is not often talked about, is the fact that it can lead to social isolation. Many people shy away from social interactions when it’s too difficult for them to hear conversations clearly, which can lead to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. But social isolation also contributes to cognitive decline since you’re not in a position to interact with anyone on a daily basis. This is why most memory-focused assisted living facilities place a special emphasis on social events and interactions since it helps their residents retain more of their cognitive abilities for a longer amount of time.
This Gadget Improves Cognitive Ability
While the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline might seem like bad news on the surface, there is actually a silver lining. By diagnosing hearing loss early and treating it effectively, there’s a chance that memory loss and dementia could be avoided or postponed. Studies do indicate that wearing hearing aids helps restore cognitive function.
A hearing aid could be the perfect gadget to help maintain cognitive functions for a longer time and even improve memory retention. A new study by the University of Maryland’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences found that test subjects showed improved brain functions after wearing a hearing aid for six months, which once again links hearing abilities and memory together – this time, though, in a more positive light.
This is an important finding for people suffering from hearing loss: of the nearly 30 million people in the country with hearing problems, only about a third of them actually use a hearing aid. This means almost 20 million people are at risk for memory loss or dementia because their hearing problems are going untreated.
A hearing aid can help you pay better attention to the sounds around you while reducing your strain of trying to figure out who is saying what. Instead of using all your mental energy on hearing, you’ll have the chance to stretch your brain muscles and become more involved in the events around you.
Interested in learning more about hearing aids and how they could help you retain your memories and improve your cognitive abilities? Find a hearing specialist in your area and meet with them for a consultation to discover what’s best for your individual situation.