How To Enhance Your Memory And General Cognitive Function
So, the first step you can take to improve your memory, and getting everyones name right at your next meeting or to make sure you plan that day off for your eye exam, is to get your hearing checked. If you have hearing loss a hearing exam will let you know how severe your impairment is.
Chris hasnt detected any symptoms of hearing loss yet so she hesitates to make an appointment. She can hear in crowded rooms fairly well enough. And shes never had a tough time hearing any of her team members at work.
But she may have some degree of hearing loss despite the fact that she hasnt recognized any symptoms yet. Actually, one of the first signs of hearing impairment is loss of memory. And strain on the brain is the base cause. Heres how it works:
- Your hearing begins to diminish, perhaps so slowly you dont realize.
- Your ears detect a lack of sound, however mild.
- The sounds that you can hear, have to be amplified and translated which makes your brain work extra hard.
- Everything seems normal, but it takes more effort from your brain to comprehend the sounds.
That type of continuous strain can be really difficult on your brains finite resources. So you have less mental energy for things like, well, memory or for other cognitive processes.
Memory Loss Frequently Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can often be hard to detect. Hearing loss doesnt happen instantly. Damage to your hearing is often further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you get your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Benefits Of Wearing A Hearing Aid
Treating your hearing loss is the first step toward a healthier, happier life. Wearing a hearing aid can enrich your life and reopen many doors that may have closed for you over the years. Other benefits of treating your hearing loss with hearing aids include:
- Hearing your grandchilds first words
- Hearing nature again
- Attending dinners in noisy environments
- Enjoying parties and understanding conversation
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The Relationship Between Memory And Hearing Loss
Your brain begins to get strained from hearing impairment before you even realize you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the spillover.
How is so much of your brain affected by loss of hearing? Well, there are a number of different ways:
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. That can push some individuals to isolate themselves. Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory problems. The brain will continue to weaken the less its used. In the long run, social separation can result in depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
- Its getting quieter: Things will become quieter when your hearing begins to diminish . This can be, well, kind of boring for the region of your brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds. This boredom might not appear to be a serious issue, but lack of use can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. That can cause a certain amount of overall stress, which can interfere with your memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will go through a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early phases of hearing loss. Thats because your brain will be struggling to hear whats taking place out in the world, even though theres no input signal . This can leave your brain feeling tired. That mental and physical fatigue often results in memory loss.
Getting Your Memories Back
In cases where hearing loss has affected your memory, either via mental exhaustion or social isolation, treatment of your underlying hearing problem is the first step in treatment. When your brain stops overworking and overstressing, itll be able to return to its normal activities. It can take a few months for your brain to re-adjust to hearing again, so be patient.
The red flags raised by your memory loss could help you be a little more conscious about protecting your hearing, or at least treating your hearing loss. As the years start to add up, thats definitely a lesson worth remembering.
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Hearing Loss May Affect Brain Health
- By James Naples, MD, Contributor
Hearing is a complex sense that provides us with awareness of environmental sounds and, more importantly, the ability to communicate. The ear is the organ responsible for perceiving sound, but it may not be so obvious that the brain is responsible for processing the sound. It is necessary that both organs work properly for hearing to occur.
Effects Of Hearing Loss On The Brain
There are decades of research examining the connections between hearing loss and cognitive impairmentâproblems with memory and confusion that can be the initial stages of dementia. Specifically, many scentists have examined the links between age-related hearing loss and cognition.
A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis published by The Journal of the American Medical Association found significant links between age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, and the development of dementia.
Additionally, a 2021 study published by the Journal of Neurology found that hearing loss in the general population is associated with lower baseline levels of cognitive function and decreased performance on memory tests over timeâalthough more research is needed before scientists can definitively name hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline.
One factor that could explain the links between hearing loss and cognition is the fact that sound processing and cognitive processing occur in the same areas of the brain.
âThe temporal lobe is the area of the brain which processes both auditory information and short-term memory storage,â Rhee Rosenman-Nesson, AuD, tells WebMD Connect to Care. âIt is also the first area to be affected by Alzheimerâs disease, so difficulty listening can potentially lead to a in this area.â
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The Hidden Risks Of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is frustrating for those who have it and for their loved ones. But recent research from Johns Hopkins reveals that it also is linked with walking problems, falls and even dementia.
In a study that tracked 639 adults for nearly 12 years, Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D, and his colleagues found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.
I Heard That Hearing Aids Are Difficult To Use
There is a breaking-in period as youand your central auditory system and brainadjust to life with hearing aids. Thats why most doctors and hearing centers include a trial period, so you can be sure the type youve chosenwhether its a miniature behind-the-ear model or one that fits into your earis right for you.
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Find A Hearing Care Partner
Keep your edge well into old age. Catch and treat hearing loss early to slow or stop its progression.
Instead of wondering about how a potential hearing loss might affect you, find out where you or a loved one stands. Get a free comprehensive hearing screening from one of our hearing care professionals.
Hearing Loss Is Memory Loss
According to the 2016 World Alzheimer Report, 47 million people have dementia. By 2050, that number is expected to exceed 130 million. Since at least 1989, researchers have documented that hearing loss is associated with dementia. One-third of adults age 65-74 and almost half over age 75 hearing loss.
Two hypotheses explain the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The common cause hypothesis assumes that degeneration of the central nervous system accounts for both hearing loss and cognitive decline. The cascade hypothesis suggests that hearing loss leads to less stimulation of the brain, which then leads to cognitive decline.
A recent study published by Asri Maharani and colleagues in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society followed patients for 18 years to measure associations between hearing aid use and episodic memory, defined as the ability to recall and mentally re-experience specific episodes from ones personal past. The researchers measured the rate of cognitive decline both before and after hearing aid use began in over 2,000 people.
Episodic memory and cognitive decline were measured using a word recall test. Participants were read a list of ten words and then asked to repeat them immediately and again after a short delay. The researchers note that they focused on episodic memory because it is age-sensitive and strongly correlated with dementia. Study participants also self-reported hearing aid use.
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Memory Loss Often Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can frequently be difficult to detect. Hearing loss is one of those slowly advancing ailments. Once you actually notice the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is generally more advanced than most hearing specialists would want. However, if you begin identifying symptoms related to memory loss and get an exam early, theres a good possibility you can avoid some damage to your hearing.
Memory And Hearing Loss Whats The Relationship
Your brain starts to become strained from hearing impairment before you even know you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the spillover.
How is so much of your brain affected by loss of hearing? Well, there are several specific ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early phases of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though theres no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear whats taking place in the world . This can leave your brain feeling fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often leads to loss of memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. Social isolation will commonly be the result, And isolation can bring about memory problems because, again, your brain isnt getting as much interaction as it used to. When those muscles arent engaged, they begin to weaken. Over time, social separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane . This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom might not seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brains systems including memory.
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Hearing Loss Linked To Alzheimerswhats The Connection
Studies suggest that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia. Brain shrinkage When the hearing section of the brain grows inactive, it results in tissue loss and changes in brain structurecreating the first link between hearing loss and Alzheimers disease. Studies show that the brains of people with hearing loss shrinkor atrophymore quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.Brain overload An overwhelmed brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When its difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a persons mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, thinking, and acting. This can further set the stage for Alzheimers, dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Should You Get Tested For Hearing Loss Or For Dementia
As a general rule, you should get your hearing checked first. This is because audiological evaluations are very simple to have done. And for most people, the telltale signs of hearing loss tend to crop up sooner than those for cognitive decline. In other words, sufferers will complain of dropped conversations or muffled sounds before they begin having difficulty remembering names or where they left their keys.
So whether youâre struggling to make out sounds or recall simple details, you should start with a comprehensive hearing examination before exploring neurological intervention.
However, traditional hearing tests canât always diagnose the root cause of the problem.
This is why we use a far more holistic approach to evaluating our patients.
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What Does This Mean If You Are Concerned About Hearing Loss
First, it is worth clarifying that the new research does not in any way suggest that hearing loss is going to lead to cognitive decline. Just because these things are associated, does not mean they are causally related. Next, what these findings make clear is that it is important to have hearing tested if you notice problems with your hearing, such as challenges hearing when in social settings, requiring the radio or television at higher volumes, or constantly requiring people to repeat themselves.
Your Body Has An Early Warning System Its Called Memory Loss
Clearly, having hearing loss isnt the only thing that leads to memory loss. Physical or mental fatigue or illness, among other things, can trigger loss of memory. Eating better and sleeping well, for example, can often improve your memory.
Consequently, memory is sort of like the canary in the coal mine for your body. The red flags go up when things arent working right. And one of those red flags is forgetting what your friend said yesterday.
Those red flags can be helpful if youre trying to watch out for hearing loss.
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Conductive Hearing Loss Aggravates Memory Decline In Alzheimer Model Mice
- 1Division of RI Application, Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, Seoul, South Korea
- 2Radiological and Medico-Oncological Sciences, University of Science and Technology, Seoul, South Korea
- 3Division of Radiation Biomedical Research, Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, Seoul, South Korea
- 4Department of Bio-Convergence Engineering, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea
- 5Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Boramae Medical Center, Seoul Metropolitan Government-Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
- 6Department of Otorhinolaryngology, College of Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
- 7National Primate Research Center, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology , Cheongju, South Korea
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Hearing Aids Can Help Prevent Dementia
Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a persons hearingthey also help preserve a persons independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life.
Wondering what a hearing test is like? Find out what to expect here.
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The Link Between Hearing Loss And Cognition Is Not Fully Understood
In recent years, there has been extensive research examining how age-related hearing loss and brain function are associated. There are some general concepts that might contribute to the association between hearing loss and cognition. One theory is that hearing loss leads to a decreased input to the brain, so there is less processing that occurs, which contributes to cognitive decline . Another theory is that early cognitive deficits may impact a persons ability to process sound, and thus contribute to hearing loss . Irrespective of which theory is correct, it is clear that the association between hearing and cognition is very real. This association emphasizes the need to improve our approach to testing and treating hearing loss.
New Research Highlights The Need To Improve Our Approach To Subclinical Hearing Loss
A recent article in JAMA Otolaryngology highlights this need. In this article, researchers reviewed two large population databases of 6,451 people who had had hearing and cognitive testing. The research showed that those who were 50 or older had cognitive scores that seemingly declined even before they reached clinically defined hearing loss . The research also noted that the association between hearing and cognition is stronger among subjects with normal hearing compared to those with hearing loss. For example, in the population they analyzed, cognition scores dropped in the normal hearing population faster than in the population with hearing loss. This result is somewhat counterintuitive, and suggests that maybe what we currently define as normal hearing may in fact include some people with hearing deficits. It also challenges what clinicians have accepted as standard classifications for hearing loss on hearing tests.
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Hearing Loss Related Complications
If your ears cannot pick up sounds, your hearing nerves will send only fewer signals to your brain, and thus depriving your brain of stimulation, it once had. When you are trying hard to listen, your brain may go through cognitive overload. This means that when your brain is working hard to decode what others are saying, it doesnt store the information in your memory as well as if you are listening with ease. This is one way that hearing loss can affect memory and contribute to a quicker decline in thinking.
Here are a few hearing loss-related complications:
The Links Between Hearing And Health
Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain, Lin says. Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.
As you walk, your ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance. Hearing loss mutes these important signals, Lin notes. It also makes your brain work harder just to process sound. This subconscious multitasking may interfere with some of the mental processing needed to walk safely.
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