Many people who are familiar with hearing loss know that it can be the cause of undue stress and anxiety in both the people living with it and those who are close to them. And while this is quite obvious, there’s a major side effect that’s often missed or undetected. This is memory loss or dementia. If you didn’t know this before, well now you know. 

Hearing loss has been linked to early-onset memory loss, dementia and cognitive decline. And while it may be just one side effect, it is a pretty significant one. People dealing with hearing loss are two to five times more at risk of developing dementia. 

This is not surprising seeing as hearing loss can actually impact the individual’s ability to absorb, retain and recall information. 

Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Memory

It’s important to clearly understand how hearing loss might be affecting the mind’s recall functioning and cognition. 

Cognitive Overload

First, let’s start with the excessive concentration required to hear and understand what people are saying. Listening can be both active and passive. In either case, you need some effort, but not too much that your brain devotes the bulk of its resources to trying to interpret what another person is saying. 

This intense concentration on hearing and understanding impairs the brain’s ability to retain information and leads to something called cognitive overload – when the brain is too busy trying to do one thing that relegates other important tasks to the background. 

As a result, when the individual tries to remember what the person said, they can’t because that information wasn’t stored in the first place.

Reduced Interactions with People

People who have hearing loss tend to become less sociable. Not because they don’t want to but trying to engage and interact with people is usually demanding when you can’t really hear them. And sometimes, the individual’s efforts can be misconstrued as rudeness. 

For instance, someone with hearing loss might end up looking more at people’s mouths in the hopes of reading their lips. This can be misunderstood by other people who might that the person is weird. This can soon feel isolating and lonely for the person who has hearing loss. 

Unfortunately, the brain actually requires consistent auditory input to function optimally. And if these social interactions are negligible or nonexistent, the brain gradually loses that muscle, becomes less active and may even shrink in size. All these can lead to increased difficulty in memory recalls. 

How Can You Tell That the Memory Loss Was Caused by Hearing Loss?

There are many causes of memory loss and cognitive decline. So, it’s important to not jump to conclusions about someone’s memory loss being caused by their inability to hear properly. So, how do distinguish hearing loss-related memory issues from other causes?

The best way to do this is to have an audiologist carry out a hearing test for you. The hearing test will help determine if you have some form of hearing loss. If you do, then the audiologist may ask you how long you’ve been dealing with memory loss. 

If it ties with when the hearing loss started, then it is possible that it can be corrected. However, please note that most people experience a reduction in hearing capacity over time. So, they may not even know that they are experiencing hearing loss. Therefore, they are less likely to attribute their memory loss to the loss of hearing. 

What Can Be Done to Prevent Hearing Loss-Related Memory Loss? 

Here’s the thing: most people assume that their hearing isn’t that bad. This is why it takes an average of 10 years before most people with hearing loss agree to and start using hearing aids and devices. And even then, they tend to resist the idea of using hearing aids for the following reasons:

  • They don’t like the design of hearing aids
  • They feel like using hearing aids will be a difficult task
  • They believe that hearing aids make them look old
  • They feel like hearing aids are not affordable 

While their concerns might be valid, the reality is, denying, resisting or being oblivious to the hearing loss problem, leads to serious communication issues with other people and increases the risk of other related health conditions. 

The good news is that if memory loss is related to hearing loss, wearing hearing aids can quickly resolve that problem. Also, being proactive about preventing hearing loss is important. Once you’re older than 25 years, schedule regular hearing tests. This will help you stay on top of your ear health, and help you catch any early-onset hearing loss.

If you suspect that your memory loss or that of a loved one might be connected to hearing loss, schedule a quick appointment with Ascent Audiology & Hearing today by calling us today at(360) 515-9948.

Tags: comorbidities