I walk into a room and forget why I came in there. I sometimes misplace my keys. I’ve forgotten a friend’s birthday and felt very bad about it. Like most people, I, too, struggle with glitchy memory from time to time. It’s these moments that remind me of just how important memory is.
Few people can say their memory is perfect — and be telling the truth. But I know I’d like to keep mine functioning at its best. That’s why, as an audiologist, I’m fascinated by the connection between my hearing and my memory.
You may take memory for granted, especially if you’ve always felt you have a good one. Science doesn’t yet fully understand how memory works. Be we do know that to remember and recall something, the brain must stay pliable. It needs to continually build new connections. That’s how you store memories and get rid of ones you no longer use.
Hearing Loss and Memory
Johns Hopkins University compared MRI scans of people with untreated hearing loss and those without hearing impairment over 10 years. The researchers found that those with hearing loss were losing brain tissue in the parts that control speech and sound processing.
Sound processing is a major way that a “hearing person” relates to the world. So, as hearing declines, so does the ability to form new memories.
Brain shrinkage sounds scary. But the good news is that this is not an inevitability. It actually points toward a solution to both hearing loss and the brain/memory challenges that many of us face, especially as we age.
Knowing that my hearing and memory are connected means that I can do something to improve hearing loss and memory at the same time.
Improve Hearing Loss and Brain Connections at the Same Time
Studies have shown that when those with hearing loss start wearing hearing aids regularly, the brain begins to reform those connections. As a result, scientists recorded improvements in memory, processing speed, language understanding, attention spans, and quality of life.
It’s important to note these improvements can take time, especially if you’ve had untreated hearing loss for several years. The sooner you get a hearing test and treatment, the better.
I often tell my patients who just got their new hearing aids, give it some time. And keep wearing your hearing aids. Because it does get better as the hearing loss and brain improve together.
Memory can be quirky sometimes. But one thing we agree on is that we’d like to keep memory and brain function strong. My hearing and memory are connected, so getting my hearing checked is one way I can keep them strong.
If you think you may be suffering from hearing loss and memory, let’s see what we can do about that. Contact my office to schedule a hearing test.