Hearing Loss and Memory Loss: How They’re Connected
Our ability to hear the world around us is critical to forming connections, retaining information, and keeping us safe in our surroundings. With approximately 48 million Americans experiencing hearing loss, it’s important to know what some of the major symptoms are for you and your loved ones. One important symptom to be aware of is trouble maintaining memory.
How is hearing loss related to memory loss?
Studies have shown that hearing loss has a significant effect on our cognitive function. It can significantly impact your ability to retain and recall information, and has even been linked to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Your brain is responsible for processing the sounds that you hear. Sound waves enter your ear, travel to your inner ear, and tiny hair cells send signals to your auditory cortex for your brain to decipher. Then, your brain can commit what you hear to memory.
Hearing loss can happen when any part of your auditory system is blocked or damaged. There are different types and severities of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss happens when sounds cannot get past the outer and middle ear. Common causes include fluid and inflammation from illness, earwax, and foreign objects. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is unfortunately permanent.
Any type or severity of hearing loss can lead to memory loss. When you experience hearing loss, you spend more energy concentrating on identifying sounds and being involved in conversation that you don’t have as much energy to commit information to memory. When you look back on a scenario where you had trouble hearing, you might feel like you cannot remember what was discussed. Most likely, you were not able to story the information as a memory in the first place.
Can you prevent or reduce memory loss?
Difficulty remembering can be stressful, but it does not always have to be permanent or a sign of something more serious. Be proactive about protecting your hearing to reduce your risk of developing lasting cognitive impairment, and schedule regular visits to a primary care physician and hearing healthcare provider to keep up with your overall health.