Memory Loss & Psychological Distress with Hearing Loss

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Seniors with hearing loss have a hard time following conversations, and struggle to hear what’s being said. They may find it difficult to hear the TV, or avoid answering the phone because it’s too hard to hear what’s being said. Not only does hearing loss make it tough to hear, hearing loss is also linked to memory loss and psychological distress.

Studying Memory Loss and Hearing

A 2019 study from the University of Tsukuba in Japan looked at some of the ways hearing loss can affect older adults. The researchers reviewed survey responses from over 130,000 seniors over the age of 65. They found that 9% of the seniors had hearing loss. The researchers looked at memory loss and psychological distress to see if there were any differences between seniors with hearing loss and seniors who could hear clearly.

The results showed a clear link between hearing loss and psychological distress. Researchers found that among seniors with hearing loss, 39.7% reported psychological distress, while among seniors without hearing loss, only 19.3% reported psychological distress.

The numbers for memory loss were even more telling, and 37.7% of seniors with hearing loss reported having trouble remembering things. Only 5.2% of those without hearing loss reported memory problems. This is a ratio of 7 to 1! Living with untreated hearing loss has a major impact on memory loss, and if you’re struggling to hear, you’re at a much higher risk of memory loss.

Hearing Loss Affects Mental Health

Hearing loss can lead to mental, emotional, and social changes. Hearing is a vital part of communication, and when you have a hard time hearing, it’s difficult to connect with loved ones. These communication barriers often lead to stress and anxiety. Have you avoided meeting friends because you can’t hear what they’ve said? Do you find excuses to get out of going to dinner in a crowded restaurant?

Older adults living with untreated hearing loss often feel embarrassed that they can’t hear what’s being said. You don’t want to ask your friends to repeat themselves over and over again, but you just can’t follow the conversation. Avoiding your friends can lead to social isolation, and feelings of loneliness or even depression. When you don’t feel connected with your family and friends, your mental health will suffer.

Hearing Loss Affects Memory

Hearing loss also affects memory, and older adults living with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Not only does hearing loss make it harder for older adults to stay social, hearing loss affects the brain. When you can’t hear all the sounds in your environment, the brain works hard to keep up with what’s happening around you. It’s difficult to identify the sounds, and figure out which sounds are important speech sounds, and which are distracting background noise.

All this strain leads to listening fatigue. Do you feel completely exhausted by the end of the day, and lack energy in the evenings? Hearing loss takes a toll on the brain, and people with hearing loss spend all their energy straining to hear the words. It’s hard to make sense of the meaning behind the words, or convert short term memories into long term memories. 

Treating Hearing Loss

Living with untreated hearing loss has a greater impact than you might think. “Hearing loss takes an enormous toll on older people in so many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting activities of daily living,” explains the study’s author Yoko Kobayashi. “Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life.” The study recommends treating hearing loss with hearing aids to improve hearing, maintain your mental health, and lower the risk of memory loss.

You can treat hearing loss with a quality pair of hearing aids, designed to make it easier to hear. Background noise reduction programs will make it easier to focus on what you want to hear, and speech enhancement settings will make it easy to follow conversations. On average, older adults wait 5 to 7 years before treating their hearing loss! During this time, hearing loss affects their memory and their mood. Do the right thing or your health and wellbeing, and treat your hearing loss today.