Memory Impairment & Hearing Loss: A Common Connection

Practically everybody in Lake Charles experiences moments of forgetfulness from time to time. Usually there is nothing to worry about; how many times have you had to retrace your steps to find your smartphone after inadvertently putting it down somewhere? Memory loss can worsen with age, however – and one of the primary contributors might just be impaired hearing.

The Relationship Between Hearing and Cognition

replica of a human brain

Approximately 20 percent of people will be diagnosed with hearing loss in Lake Charles. While hearing aids can help the majority of these folks, not everybody chooses to seek treatment. It’s possible that some of them don’t even realize they are suffering from a hearing impairment; symptoms tend to develop gradually over time, making it difficult to realize there is a problem until quite some time has passed. Unfortunately, when hearing loss goes untreated, your risk of memory loss increases.

Numerous studies have found a correlation between hearing loss and memory impairment. One commonly-referenced study conducted by a team of researchers from Johns-Hopkins University followed 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. When the study began, none of these individuals showed signs of cognitive impairment, but that changed during the course of the study.

JAMA Internal Medicine published the results in 2013, and they were pretty clear: those people who began the study with hearing loss that was deemed severe enough to interfere with their conversational ability on a daily basis were 24 percent more likely to experience diminished cognitive ability compared to participants whose hearing was normal. Often, the first symptom was trouble remembering things.

This makes sense when you recognize the important role the brain plays in the hearing process. Your ears pick up sounds from the environment, but the brain is actually responsible for assigning them meaning. When hearing loss hampers your comprehension, your brain is forced to work harder to understand. To do so, it diverts resources away from other areas, such as memory and cognition, to focus on hearing instead. And the worse your hearing, the harder your brain must work to compensate, which translates to higher incidences of memory impairment and cognitive decline. This explains why participants with the worst hearing scored the lowest on memory and cognition tests given by researchers.

Another contributing factor is the withdrawal and isolation many individuals with hearing loss in Lake Charles experience. Social activities are stressful for people with poor hearing, especially when they must contend with background noise. Instead of putting themselves through the hassle, many avoid social situations entirely. Isolation results in less mental stimulation, something that can actually cause the brain to shrink – changes that affect memory and cognition.

Your Lake Charles audiologist urges you to seek treatment for hearing loss as soon as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of suffering from negative health consequences such as memory impairment. If you are having difficulty hearing, schedule an appointment as soon as possible – especially if your memory isn’t as great as it used to be!

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