We are often quick to blame our failing memory whenever we have trouble recalling things. Seldom do we stop to consider that we may not even have heard the information in the first place! A recent study from the Canadian Journal on Aging explored how the symptoms of hearing loss can often be confused as memory loss.
As we grow older, we expect our memory to fade as all our memories recede into the dusty corners of our mind. Hearing loss is also an unfortunate side effect of aging for many people, but most people do not consider it to be a problem. By ignoring hearing loss or dismissing it as memory loss, however, we are only worsening the problem.
Our memory depends on a lot of things in order to function properly, and our sense of hearing is one of those things. We rely on auditory information to create linguistic patterns, and information that can be stored in the short term and long term memories. With hearing loss, this auditory information becomes limited and over time, it can indeed begin to affect our memory adversely.
Hearing loss has been linked to the onset of dementia in several research studies. As such, both of these conditions may have common characteristics and the onset of one may influence the onset of another. Studies have reported that those with hearing loss face a rapid cognitive decline while those with dementia tend to have higher chances of suffering from hearing loss.
The study in the Canadian Journal of Aging hypothesized that the family members of those who reported that their loved ones had memory loss actually had untreated hearing loss. Several family members often complain that their loved one is “forgetting things” because they have to keep repeating themselves. Family members may believe that their loved one was forgetting things due to lack of attention, when in reality their loved one may actually not have heard what was said to them in the first place.
The results supported this hypothesis, since it was found that 56% of the participants in the study genuinely did have some form of hearing loss. Only around 20% of the participants with hearing loss actually used hearing devices. What was alarming is that 25% of participants did not have any neurological condition that supported their memory loss, which indicated that their supposed memory loss was actually just hearing loss!
We often yell at our loved ones when they forget chores and complain with phrases like “you’re not even listening!” This may actually be closer to the truth that you can imagine in some cases, since your loved one may literally not be listening because of their hearing loss! If you feel that your loved one has hearing loss, have their hearing tested by an audiologist today to see if they can benefit from hearing aids.
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