We often associate memory loss or general cognitive impairment with aging. However, studies have shown that there is a link between hearing loss and some cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that hearing loss is more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those who have normal hearing. These are just some of why it is beneficial to get regular hearing tests performed by an audiologist.

Complications Related to Hearing Loss

There are several ways in which hearing loss can impact memory. If your ears cannot detect noises, your hearing nerves will send fewer impulses to your brain, depriving your brain of its previously received stimulus.

When you’re straining hard to listen, your brain may become overworked. This means that when your brain is straining hard to decode what others are saying, the information isn’t stored in your memory as well as it would be if you were listening naturally. Hearing loss can damage memory and contribute to a faster decline in thinking in this way.

Isolation

Isolation and loneliness can become significant issues when people have hearing loss. They often avoid social gatherings becoming even more isolated. When people are isolated and alone for prolonged periods, they are more likely to become depressed. Depression has a serious and significant impact on the brain.

When you separate yourself from people, your brain receives far less stimulus. In experimental mice, social seclusion has been associated with brain cell shrinkage. The loss of brain mass can put you at risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression

Communication is challenging for those with hearing loss, which can lead to stress, social isolation and depression. Depression has been linked to memory issues like confusion and difficulties thinking. It also causes short-term memory loss and makes it difficult to focus on daily duties or make judgments.

Stress

When you cannot hear well, it can be more challenging to enjoy social engagements, work meetings can become complicated and details can be missed often. Not only that but day-to-day living can become impacted too. Over time this can lead to stress and other emotional disorders. Hearing loss is often stressed, before, during and even after social engagements, appointments and events.

Stress leads to depression, panic attacks, anxiety, trouble sleeping, exhaustion, regular aches and pains and an increased risk of heart issues or stroke.

What’s more, is that stress impacts how our memories are formed. People who are under stress will often have a more difficult time forming short-term memories. The short-term memories are then more difficult to turn into long-term memories. The stress of hearing loss can directly lead to difficulty forming and keeping memories.

Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are different, but both have an impact on how we form and store memories. Anxiety and stress will both come into play when people with hearing loss are worried about missing information, the telephone ringing or other noises.

A sense of uneasiness is often described to accompany the feelings of stress and anxiety when going about daily life. Anxiety often arises when the person with hearing loss has to ask the same questions multiple times in the same conversation. Over time they will begin not to ask to have things repeated, leading to further anxiety.

Cognitive Impairment

The inner ear sensory cells or the auditory nerve responsible for delivering incoming signals to the brain are damaged in nerve-type or sensorineural hearing loss, and the signals become distorted. This is why hearing-impaired people have trouble comprehending what others are trying to communicate.

Whenever you talk to someone, the brain analyses the noises you hear to understand what you and others are saying. If you can’t hear correctly, your brain needs to work harder to interpret the sounds.

The increased workload may deplete resources that could otherwise be used for learning and storing what you hear in memory. Auditory fatigue and cognitive overload can result from the increased listening effort.

Can Hearing Aids Help with Memory Function?

Living with hearing loss can have a significant impact on general health and cognitive functions. One of the keyways that these issues can be prevented or alleviated is to have a discussion with your audiologist. They will be able to find the correct approach to your hearing loss.

The University of Maryland, Department of Hearing and Speech, noted that people fitted with a hearing aid showed significant improvement in memory, listening and neural speed processing.

If you’d like to discuss your hearing, then contact Pacific Audiology Clinic today at 503-719-4208.