Janet has been a little forgetful lately. She missed her doctor’s appointment for the second month in a row (time to reschedule again). And she even forgot to run the dishwasher before going to bed (looks like she’ll be handwashing her breakfast bowl this morning). Things have been slipping through the cracks. Curiously, Janet doesn’t necessarily feel forgetful…she just feels mentally drained.
It can be difficult to put your finger on that feeling until it’s sneaking up on you. Often, though, the trouble isn’t your memory, despite how forgetful you might appear. The real issue is your hearing. And that means there’s one tiny device–a hearing aid–that can help you substantially improve your memory.
How to improve your memory
So, the first step you can take to improve your memory–to get everyone’s name right at your next meeting or make sure you schedule that day off for your dentist appointment–is to get your hearing checked. A typical hearing screening will be able to determine if you have hearing loss and how bad any impairment may be.
Janet hesitates, though, because she hasn’t noticed any signs or symptoms of hearing loss. She can hear in crowded rooms decently well enough. And she’s never had a hard time listening to any of her team members at work.
But just because her symptoms aren’t apparent doesn’t mean that they aren’t present. In fact, memory loss is often one of the very first noticeable symptoms of hearing loss. And it all has to do with brain strain. Here’s how it works:
- Your hearing starts to fade (imperceptibly, to you).
- Your ears notice a lack of input, however slight.
- Your brain starts working a little bit harder to interpret and amplify the sounds you are able to hear.
- Everything seems normal on the output end (what you refer to as “your hearing”), but it takes more work on your brain’s part to make the magic happen (that is, to make sense of the sounds).
That kind of constant strain (your ears don’t have an off switch) can be a real drag on your brain’s finite resources. So you have less mental energy for things like, well, memory.
Hearing loss and dementia
If you take memory loss to its most logical extremes, you might end up looking at something like dementia. And there is a link between hearing loss and dementia, though there are several other factors at work and the cause and effect relationship remains somewhat murky. Still, those with untreated hearing loss, over time, are at an increased risk for experiencing cognitive decline–which can start as memory loss and eventually (over the years) turn into more severe issues.
Hearing aids to the rescue
That’s why treating your hearing loss is essential. According to one study, 97.3% of those with hearing loss who wore hearing aids for at least 18 months showed a marked stabilization or improvement in their cognitive functions.
Various other studies have shown similar results. Hearing aids really help. When your brain doesn’t have to strain quite as hard, your overall cognitive function improves. Sure, a hearing aid isn’t a memory panacea–cognitive decline or memory problems can be a complex mixture of causes and elements.
Memory loss can be the first sign
This memory loss is almost always temporary–it’s a sign of exhaustion more than it is a fundamental change in the way your brain operates. But that can change if the underlying issues remain unaddressed.
Memory loss, then, can be something of an early warning system. When you first notice those symptoms, you should make an appointment with your hearing specialist. As soon as your fundamental hearing issues are addressed, your memory should return to normal.
As an added bonus, your hearing health will likely improve, too. A hearing aid can help stem the decline in your hearing. In a sense, your overall wellness–not just your memory–could be improved by these little devices.