Memory Loss & Psychological Distress with Untreated Hearing Loss

Memory Loss & Psychological Distress with Untreated Hearing Loss

In Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss, Hearing Test by Hearing Technology Associates

When you have been facing stress in your life for a while, it’s very normal to feel overwhelmed which can lead to psychological distress. Psychological distress occurs when you feel overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings or emotions, which feel too extreme to keep under control. This can overtake your day-to-day life, struggling to connect to others and losing motivation to complete everyday tasks. Phycological distress can produce anxiety as well and stress can affect how memories are formed. 

When people struggle to control their anxiety, they have greater hurdles in creating short-term memories and transitioning those short-term memories into long-term memories. This means that learning is more challenging while stressed and can also affect which memories are more difficult to learn when stressed. Stress can affect the type of memories we form as well.

If someone close to you is struggling with hearing loss it can be difficult to identify the issue. This is due to the similar side effects common in memory and psychological distress and hearing loss as well. Chronic issues communicating due to hearing loss can produce anxiety, chronic depression, social anxiety, and loneliness.

Study Connected Memory, Hearing Loss and Phycological Distress

It may feel like a reach at first until you understand the true and complete impact that hearing loss has on your emotional health. Communication is the cornerstone of healthy and vibrant relationships. As humans are social creatures, we rely on healthy social interaction to connect and feel like part of something larger, outside of ourselves. By being connected and in community with other humans have a greater sense of purpose and therefore are more engaged and active.

A recent study sought to link these conditions and found that those with hearing loss also reported increased difficulty participating in outdoor activities at higher rates than those with normal hearing loss. 

The Study: A recent Japanese study collected a cohort of 137,723 people aged 65 years or older who lived at home, versus living in an assisted living facility. At the start of the study, none of the participants showed any signs of developing dementia. From this cohort, 12,389 reported hearing loss (9%).

The Results: The researcher tested patients with hearing loss for memory loss, psychological distress, and those limited by outdoor activities. They found that: 

  • 37.7% of those with hearing loss reported memory loss, in comparison to 5.2% without hearing loss living with memory loss. 
  • 39.7% of those with hearing loss reported psychological distress, while 19.3% without hearing loss did
  • 28.9% of those with hearing loss had limitations on their ability to participate in outdoor activities, while only 9.5% of those without hearing loss did.

How Hearing Loss is Connected

While it was clear that those with hearing loss experience phycological distress, memory issues, and reduced ability to participate in outdoor activities, researchers searched for solid information which would cause this. A popular theory connecting memory loss and hearing impairments has to do with the strain the brain is under when struggling to hear everyday conversations. The brain must fill in blanks in words, which can put a strain on the brain, making it harder to focus on other things and store proper memories. Others have noted a strong connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. When parts of the sound are lost for years without stimulation it can lead to atrophy of the brain, which can contribute to dementia. 

Mobility is also compromised when hearing loss is present as we use our ears not only to communicate but to hear the world around us. When outdoors we are presented with a complex listening environment where it can be more difficult to hear sounds and stay alert or your surroundings. 

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

These issues are troubling but it’s important to be aware that if you are struggling with any of these issues, treating your hearing loss can make a big difference. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which amplify the sounds around you. This allows you to communicate with greater confidence and have more alertness around your surroundings. The first step toward greater emotional health may be to schedule a hearing exam with us today.