As your hearing declines, it will be the little things that grab your attention — tiny problems that interfere with your quality of life. One or more of these issues may eventually be what gets you to the ear doctor, but, until then, how can you overcome these typical problems? If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. that have gradual hearing loss, here are five things that can change your life and what you can do about it.
1. Ringing in the Ears
That ringing you think you hear is tinnitus, an annoying side effect of hearing loss and something that can definitely change your life. This phantom sound is a symptom of hearing decline, especially when related to age. Not everyone hears a bell, though, for some people tinnitus is a:
Regardless of the sound you hear, it can get interfere with your ability to focus.
A good place to get started is by figuring out what irritants might trigger the sound such as caffeine. Keep a record what you do right before the noise starts like listening to music using an earbud or eating a meal with a lot of salt. Over time, you will identify your personal tinnitus triggers and learn to avoid them.
You may also need to find ways to cover this noise up, especially at night when you are trying to fall asleep. Something as simple as a fan running in the room can mask the sound of tinnitus and give you some relief.
2. Problems Following Conversation
Gradual hearing loss can mean you start noticing people mumble more or certain words are never clear. Hearing aids will go a long way towards eliminating all these issues. If you are not quite ready to go down that road, there are a few tricks you might try.
Put yourself in the best position to hear. Face the person you are talking to and look at them as they speak. The combination of what you hear and what you see might be enough to clarify things.
Go out of your way to have conversations in quiet areas, too. Background noise will make it harder to understand speech. Step away from fans and turn off the TV, for instance.
Ask for clarification, as well. If you are having problems hearing, it’s probably not a secret, so just put it out there. Telling someone you are talking to that you have a hearing challenge is enough to get them to speak clearly and turn up the volume a bit.
Fighting to hear every word is exhausting and that fatigue catches up with you. Looking for ways to eliminate that extra stress such as wearing hearing aids can reduce your frustration, but so will learning different ways to relax. Find a hobby that refocuses your mind, something like learning to paint or crochet. Practice extreme breathing exercises, too. They will teach you the art of calming yourself when you feel overcome with stress.
One of the best ways to handle this type of chaos, though, is to exercise daily. Working out forces your body to release hormones that help calm you and make everything seem less stressful.
4. Social Withdrawal
Loss of hearing will leave you feeling left out of the loop and maybe different than everyone else in some way — like you can’t understand even the simplest of things anymore. That’s will make anyone want to turn down a chance to get out with friends. As a result, you may end up spending more time alone and socially isolated.
The way to get back your life is to accept what is happening to you. Once you take that step, you can find ways to fight the desire to avoid time with family and friends. When you do head out for the night, tell the people you are with about your struggle. You might find that instead of being alone, you end up with a support system that can help.
Age-related hearing loss is gradual, so it’s easy to deny. People tend to find other reasons for the problem like the volume on the TV isn’t working as well as it used to or that one friend was always a mumbler. Pay attention to the patterns that are forming and listen to what the people in your life are telling you. Often, they are the first to realize someone they care about has hearing loss.
Of course, you have the ability to overcome most of these problems at one time by getting an ear exam, a proper diagnosis and, maybe, hearing aids. If even one of these scenarios sounds familiar, then it’s time to for a professional hearing test.
Do you have someone in your life who you suspect has hearing problems? You are not alone. Statistically speaking, it’s possible that most people know at least one individual who is hearing impaired and probably doesn’t realize it. About 36 million people in the United States have hearing challenges, according to Dr. Bettie Borton, AuD, president of the American Academy of Audiology. If it’s not a friend, it might be a spouse, parent or a grandparent.
Often hearing loss is a progressive issue for most, so even though you can tell there is a problem, they may not see it. It’s common for a person’s friend or family member to be the one who recognizes the problem in the first place. Maybe, what you should be asking is what you can do about it? It’s your job to help your friend or loved one come to the see what you already know. It’s time for them to schedule a hearing test.
It’s a complex topic for most because hearing loss and aging tend to go hand-in-hand. Consider some practical and less offensive ways you can get your close friend to agree to get a professional hearing test.
Get Started by Talking About Why Hearing Loss is a Concern
Make it about you, though, and not your friend, if that helps. For example, medical science has found a link between some kinds of hearing loss and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a 2014 report issued by Johns Hopkins Medicine shows there is a certain amount of brain shrinkage in patients that ignore their hearing loss as opposed to managing it with hearing aids and other devices.
Talk to your friend about the fear you have that undetected hearing loss can hurt you down the road and why you think it’s time for to think about a hearing test.
Plan Your Own Hearing Test
The truth is that most people benefit from getting the occasional hearing test, so why not schedule one for yourself and challenge your friend to join you. Instead of talking about potential hearing loss, make the test part of a comprehensive wellness strategy, something you can work on together You get your nails done together, maybe, you go to the gym together, you might even head to the dentist together, so why not a hearing test?
Maybe, tell your friend you need some help because you’re not sure what to expect from a hearing test. You might even claim to that you’re not sure if you have hearing problems of your own. It can’t hurt you to get tested, especially if it helps out a friend.
Learn More About the Signs of Hearing Loss
Maybe just being honest is the better approach for this particular friend, but before you start that discussion, take some time to get the facts right. It’s possible what you’ve noticed isn’t about hearing loss, but a sign of another condition. This is the right time to get familiar with the signs of hearing loss, so you can talk intelligently with your friend. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Your friend avoids social settings
- Your friend feels tired all the time
- Your friend is having unexplained headaches
- Your friend complains about ringing in the ears
- Your friend tends to get the details wrong a lot
- Your friend mutters “What” during every conversation
- Your friend keeps turning the volume up
These little things are not something a person might pick up on their own, but stuff you as a friend might notice.
Now, Point Out the Things You’ve Noticed
When you’re ready, talk about the things you’ve noticed like:
- You seen to have to repeat yourself a lot
- Your friend is missing important details during your conversations
- It seems like your friend is struggling to hear you talk
Indicate some of the tell-tale signs of hearing loss you see in your friend like turning the head to one side to hear or the seemingly automatic “What” with every discussion. It’s possible your friend always has a look might look confused during a conversation.
Take the time to write some specific examples, too. The more details you offer, the more your friend will recognize the symptoms. Even it if it doesn’t sink in the first time around, you planted a seed and now this person will start to notice things on their own. Don’t be confrontational, just caring and concerned.
Once, you’ve had the talk, offer to make the appointment for your friend. It will usually start with a trip to the ear doctor. Afterward, you can go along for the test as support.
Hearing loss is not an easy thing to accept, but an important challenge to face because there are consequences if you don’t. Be that friend that understands the need and help that someone in your life find their way back to healthy hearing.
If you have hearing loss then it might be time to do something about it, but for most people, there’s a learning curve. The stuff you need to manage the problem doesn’t always come cheap such as a good hearing aid, for example, or a hearing test, so you might be tempted to look around and see what else is available.
If you do, you’d be making the biggest mistake of your life when it comes to your hearing loss. Like any sector, there are good and bad products out there for hearing loss, so you need to take your time and make smart choices. Consider some of the more common mistakes people make when it comes to hearing loss.
Buying Candles for Your Ears
It’s the right idea, but the wrong approach. Hearing loss might be due to wax build-up but ear-cleaning candles are not the answer. In theory, ear candles should break up and pull out the wax plug, giving you back your hearing, but there is no proof that actually works. The flipside of that coin is the candles may do harm. It’s possible you may damage an otherwise healthy ear by using them.
The best option in this scenario is to get an ear exam. Let a doctor tell you there is wax build up and fix the problem for you, instead. A physical exam provides you with a proper diagnosis, so you can develop more realistic treatment solutions – ones that improve your quality of life, instead of just cost you money.
Focus on Style Instead of Function
Not all hearing aids are the same. Your goal is to find a high-quality device with functions that matter in your life – that rarely comes in a tiny, chic package. Some of the newer digital hearing aids are very sleek looking but they may not have the power necessary to help you hear.
When shopping for hearing aids, you need to sit down with a certified retailer and discuss what you want to get from the device. Looks at the various functions and figure out what they can do for you personally. Once you have a list in hand of everything you expect from the hearing aid brand you choose, then start looking at the various designs to see what fits and what doesn’t. If you make the style your primary concern, you may end up with a hearing aid that does less, costs more and needs batteries daily.
Going from diagnosis to wearing hearing aids is a process and you need to ask plenty of questions along the way. Start by making a list of questions for your doctor prior to your ear exam. Assuming the problem isn’t simple ear wax build-up, the next step is the audiologist for a hearing test. Write down the questions you want to ask at this stage, too. Once, you get to the point where you are buying hearing aids, bring with you a whole new set of questions for the retailer. Informed consumers make better buys.
Know What You are Buying
Consider your hearing aids an investment, so do your research. There is a big difference between a personal amplification device you might buy off the Internet, for instances, and a digital hearing aid you get from a certified distributor. It’s up to you to understand where these difference lie so you can make an informed decision before the purchase.
Hearing loss is a complex problem, but there are solutions for most people. You can make the choice to face your condition with as much information as possible or to try to make shortcuts that will ultimately cost you.
Hearing aids make life better – true or false? Like most medical technoloyg, there are larger than life myths surrounding hearing aids. Which ones are right and which ones are wrong, though? It’s tough to pick out what facts are right and which are wrong because there is such a wide range of hearing aids on the market and hearing loss is a complicated topic. What do you think? Do hearings aids make life better? They do for most people, however; they don’t work for every kind of hearing loss. Consider five more myths about hearing aids that are plain wrong.
1. Hearing Aids Feel Old
Some styles of hearing aids are dated looking, but the designs has come very far in the last few decades. Modern hearing aids come in bright, beautiful colors that should make you feel your and savvy. They are also available in stealth designs, so no one even has to know you are wearing one.
2. You have to be Deaf to Need a Hearing Aid
Hearing aids are an effective choice for most levels of hearing loss, not just those who are almost profoundly deaf. Studies show the even mild hearing loss has a considerable impact on thinking and brain health. Hearing aids provide filtering and amplification, too, so, if even the hearing loss isn’t severe, having them helps make things better.
3. You Should get Just One Hearing Aid and Save Money
This is a common misconception. The problem is that you don’t just hear in one ear, so even if your loss is more pronounced on one side, get two hearing aids to localize the sound. It’s just confusing if the hearing on one side sounds different.
4. Hearing Aids Just Make Things Sound Louder
That is the primary function of a hearing aid, but not the only one. Today’s modern hearing aids do many amazing things. They measure the amount of amplification you need based on the volume and quality of the sound, for example. A soft voice is just as clear as the TV show you are watching.
Hearing aids are able to filter out background noises, too. Environmental sounds are a problem for those with a hearing impairment. Something as basic as a fan may block out all other sounds. Hearing aids can filter out that fan noise, so you hear people talking to you. Many hearing devices come with directional microphones, as well, so those days of trying to figure out where a sound is coming from are over.
5. You Can’t Use Your Phone with a Hearing Aid
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many hearing assistance devices are Bluetooth ready, meaning they connect to your phone, tablet or computer directly. They also have microphones built into them, so you can talk on the phone hands-free.
The right provider will consider many things before making a hearing aid recommendation to you. They look at your hearing test, for example, to determine your level of hearing loss. They consider what you do for a living and what features like Bluetooth might work well for you. Your job is to ask questions so you can make an informed decision when buying hearing aids and not be fooled by the myths.
Do you hear that ringing in your ears and wonder where it comes from? You’re not alone. It is estimated by the Hearing Health Foundation that 20 percent of Americans hear that same ringing sound, or ones similar to it, each day. Only around 16 percent of those with tinnitus will discuss the problem with a physician even though it disrupts their lives. Of that 20 percent, 90 percent of them also live with hearing loss even if they realize it. It is a growing concern throughout the country, but what does all the noise mean?
Tinnitus is the medical name for the phantom sound in your ears. There is no one source for this noise – it’s actually a symptom of another problem, one usually associated with loss of hearing.
Tinnitus is more of a sensation than an actual sound, too. This is why no one else hears the noise that’s keeping you awake at night. There are no sound waves causes this phenomenon, instead, it relates directly to tiny hairs inside the inner ear that produce an electrical signal telling the brain there is a sound. These cells are misfiring, sending random electrical impulses not based on any true noise.
There is More to Tinnitus Than Just Ringing
Tinnitus is usually described as a high-pitched ringing, but not everyone hears the same thing. Some report:
Others say it sounds like you are pressing your ear up against a seashell to hear the waves. The diversity of sounds is one thing that makes this condition confusing, especially for some who fails to get medical treatment or a hearing test.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is simply a mechanical breakdown of a critical part of the human ear but what is behind this breakdown? For most people, the answer is presbycusis, a form of hearing loss related to aging. Presbycusis is degenerative, so it tends to get worse as the person gets older. Other potential illnesses that present with tinnitus include:
- Loud sounds – It might be a one-time bang or something that is a day to day problem like machinery, earphones or exposure to loud music
- A build up of earwax – Earwax in the ear canal block sound waves interfering with your hearing
- Ear bone growth – This is a genetic problem that changes the bones in the ear
There are other possibilities, although they are rare, such as Ménière’s disease, which refers to increased pressure inside the ear. Jaw problems may be a source of the ringing, as well. For some, the noise is a consequence of a head injury that damaged the nerves in the ear. It might also be a sign of high blood pressure, a rare tumor in the ear or a side effect of a medication.
What Can You Do About Tinnitus?
First, make an appointment for a hearing test and ear examination to figure out the cause of the ringing. Once you treat the underlying hearing loss with something like a hearing aid, the ringing may resolve over time. Tinnitus is usually a sign of hearing loss that may be affecting your life in other ways, too, like isolating you during conversations or leaving you feeling like you are missing things. Once you identify your hearing loss, then getting hearing aids increases real sounds so the phantom ones are less of an issue.
There are other things you can do at home, too, to help deal with what can be an annoying and distracting problem. White noise machines produce environmental sounds that sooth your mind, especially if tinnitus is keeping you awake. You can fall asleep listening to the rain, for example, instead of that buzzing in your head.
You can create your own background noise, too, to deflect some of the tinnitus chaos. A fan blowing in the room might help or a humidifier – anything that produces a soft, but persistent sound to keep the hair cells in the ear busy so they don’t misfire.
It’s important to remember, though, that the ringing is trying to tell you something. Most likely the message is about hearing loss, so it’s worth a trip to the doctor to get a hearing test and find out more about your ear health.
Sound is so deeply embedded into our lives it becomes hard not to take it for granted at times. Still, every year 20 percent of Americans lose their ability to hear. By the age of 65, one in three of them suffer from some level of hearing loss, states the Hearing Loss Association of American.
Still, you may think that losing your hearing is just a part of the aging process, but there is more to know than that. What you do before you grow older to protect your ears can slow the process and maybe prevent it entirely. The main factor is education, so the more you understand about hearing loss, the better. Let’s discuss few facts about hearing loss that you need to understand before it’s too late.
The Different Types of Hearing Loss
Understanding what type hearing loss you have helps to find solutions. There are three to consider:
- Conductive –This is what you might link with aging. This form of hearing loss means there is a change in the mechanisms of hearing, so sound waves can’t reach the inner ear. What’s important to remember about conductive hearing loss is it might be reversible. Something is simple as a buildup of ear wax can cause it.
- Sensorineural –Trauma from an accident or a disease to the ear prevents the nerves from translating sound to the brain. The sensorineural hearing loss not fixable.
- Mixed –This means you have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Once you understand why hearing changed, you can figure out ways to enhance your quality of life with things like hearing aids.
Aging Isn’t the Only Cause
Advanced age does put a person at risk for conductive hearing loss, but it’s not the only factor. The ears are very delicate, so environmental stressors take their toll, as well. This may be part of the reason why elderly folks tend to lose some of their hearing. By paying focusing now to the things that will cost you later, you can keep your ears safe. Other dangerous scenarios to consider include:
Loud noise – Studies indicate that at least 48 percent of plumbing professionals suffer hearing loss. Why – because they are exposed frequently to loud noises on the job. Even small things like listening to music with the volume up, spending evenings watching your favorite local band perform or riding in the car with the windows down can be a problem. Loud sounds create potentially dangerous waves that will eventually damage the sensitive elements that allow you to hear.
Medication – Some forms of medication are ototoxic, meaning they cause damage to the inner ear. There are currently around 200 different medications capable of triggering hearing or balance problems including over the counter aspirin.
Trauma or Illness – An injury to the ears or certain illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic ear infections
Hearing Loss Starts Slow
It’s best to be proactive because hearing loss begins slowly and increases over time. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Mumbling when people talk
- Complaints of people needing to repeat themselves
- You need the volume up high on the TV
- Certain sounds become difficult to understand, specifically words with the letter S or F and high pitched voices
- You have trouble following conversations
- You respond inappropriately to questions
If you feel like you are having difficulties in any of these areas, schedule a hearing test. The earlier your hearing loss is diagnosed, the better the prognosis in most cases. Prompt medical care for your hearing defect will increase your chance of recovery.
The good news is there is life after hearing loss if it does happen to you. There are personal listening devices like hearing aids that help your tune out background noise and enhance dialect, for example. The more you understand about your hearing loss, the better able you are to find ways to manage it.
Do you think a hearing test is only necessary if there is a problem with your ears? Perhaps possible a family complains when you turn the sound up too high on the television or you’ve noticed that conversations seem mumbled more lately. Those are both practical reasons to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders claims around 15 percent of the adult population in this country has a similar problem, more so as they age. In fact, it may be that you have some hearing loss and getting the test done will provide an answer. What you might not realize, though, is getting screened for hearing loss is a lifesaver because that change in your hearing might indicate something much bigger is affecting your health. Consider four ways getting a hearing test could save your life.
Is There a Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
There is a connection between these two problems recently discovered by scientists. The World Health Association (WHO) estimates that by 2050, there may be over 100 million individuals globally suffering from some form of dementia. At the root of this increase may be age-related hearing loss.
Research offered by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions discovered that people with mild hearing loss, around a 25 decimal decline, increase their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For every 10 decibels that your hearing drops, the risk increases by 20 percent. The reasoning is complex, but, essentially, the struggle to hear constantly takes a toll on the brain. A hearing test can predict your risk level and help create a solution like a hearing aid to reduce the stress and lower your risk.
What About the Link Between Heart Disease and Hearing Loss
Getting a routine hearing exam might save you from a heart attack or even death. Hearing loss is often a symptom of heart disease. The inner ear has a very sensitive network of blood vessels. Even the tiniest change in blood flow, like a poorly functioning major artery, can show up first as hearing loss. If the hearing test indicates a slight decrease, but there doesn’t appear to be any problem with the mechanisms of your ears, the next place to look at blood flow.
Skin Cancer Finds
A hearing test is an evaluation that goes beyond just the audiometer screening, too. A medical professional will do a physical exam of your ears, too. This location is a difficult to see and where a suspect mole can be easily missed. During the exam of your ears, the physician will look at the skin for signs of lesions or potential cancer growth.
Hearing Loss and Stress
The old saying you don’t miss something until it’s gone if very true when it comes to hearing. Even minor hearing loss can bring with it stress and depression. You may not know why you’re struggling to keep up or perhaps you think bad hearing is just part of getting older. You may be afraid of what a hearing test will tell you, too. What if you are going deaf and there is nothing you can do about it? That fear is unwarranted for most. Hearing loss is usually treatable medically or by using a hearing assistance device. Either way, you have more to lose than gain by avoiding this simple test. You are making a choice when you decide to live with your hearing loss instead of getting tested and treated. Now you know it’s a decision that can really cost you.
There is an estimated 14 percent of the adult population that suffers from hearing loss including around 25 percent of people over the age of 55. Tack on another 14.9 percent of kids who have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the extent of this problem becomes clear. What do you think people with hearing loss can’t hear?
Types of Hearing Loss
The sounds that each person hears vary depending on a number of factors such as why they have hearing loss. There are four defined classifications of hearing loss:
Conductive – The one you might associate aging, conductive hearing loss implies sounds cannot get through to the inner ear to be interpreted by the brain.
Sensorineural – This indicates damage or defect to the inner ear or hearing nerve. It might be due to a congenital disorder, disease or maybe trauma.
Mixed Hearing Loss – Mixed refers to a combination of both conductive and sensorineural problems.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder – Hearing loss that happens when the brain cannot interpret the sound due to damage to the inner ear.
Each type brings with it different symptoms. There are some common complaints between them, though: including the affected person may or may not hear. Consider five sounds a person with hearing loss might be missing.
For some suffers, this hearing loss is limited to high frequencies – in other words, this person fails to interpret anything above 2,000 Hertz. This form of hearing loss makes it difficult to understand words. When this person watches TV or has a conversation, certain words will sound muttered or unclear for this person. The words affected contain the consonants S, H, and F, which usually fall between 1,500 to 6,000 Hertz.
Frequencies That are Low-Range
Sometimes, hearing loss occurs at the other end of the scale. The low-frequency hearing loss implies sensorineural damage and impacts sound produced at less than 2,000 Hertz. Generally, this low-frequency hearing loss is a genetic or congenital defect such as cochlear malformation.
When an individual has conductive hearing loss, they will hear most sounds if they are loud enough, but not at normal volumes. This explains why amplifying the sound with hearing aids is a solution for them and why they are always turning up the TV or need headphones to hear their music. The ears work if the sound is loud enough to get through. When someone speaks in a normal voice, they may hear something but it sounds garbled and unclear.
Conversation in a Noisy Room
At times, it’s what you can hear that screws things up. People with a significant hearing challenge will experience something call recruitment noise. In other words, the background sounds overwhelm everything else. A sound like the air conditioner turning on masks all other noise.
This background noise is loud enough to cause physical distress, at times. The phenomenon occurs when an individual has both normal and damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The normal cells take over for damaged ones close by causing the sound to be excessively loud.
Speech of Any Kind
Profound hearing loss means a person hears no speech. Medical professionals use a classification system to measure hearing loss in decibels – a person with normal hearing measures anywhere from -10 to 15 dB HL (decibels of hearing loss) during a hearing test. To be diagnosed with profound hearing loss, the classification is 91 or more dB HL.
No two people hear or don’t hear the same thing regardless of their hearing challenges. It all depends on why your hearing is diminished and how severely.
* How hearing works
* hearing loss
* conductive hearing loss
Brain training games are all the rage right now, but why? It might be because people are concerned about brain focus and memory, something that we all fear drops with age. These games claim to save your mental function and memories.
How accurate is that statement, though? We are not planning on debating that issue here, but the latest research is less than positive, especially since these tests failed to pass a necessary scientific test.
With the usefulness of braining training in question, what’s next for people who want to preserve their memories? We do understand there is a clear connection between memory and hearing, one that is bigger than most people understand. In fact, the research highlights the relationship between healthy hearing and a healthy memory.
To understand, you must first learn about how human memory works and why treating hearing loss might just give yours a boost.
How human memory works
Human memory is extremely complex, no doubt. What we know right now is that there is no one area of the brain identified as the place where memories are stored.
Memory storage occurs across the brain using a multitude of electrical and chemical signals in partnership with billions of neurons and trillions of connections. It is easy to see why memory is not fully understood.
Researchers also know that creation of memories occurs in three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval.
In stage one, or encoding, the brain focuses on environmental stimuli, or what’s going on around you. This step helps filter out the unimportant information, so you monitor what does matter. Without this initial step, the brain would store every stimulus you were exposed to and your memory would fill to capacity very quickly.
Once stage two starts, the short-term or working memory holds about seven pieces of information for only about 20-30 seconds. There are techniques that may expand this capacity such as chunking (the breaking down of long strings of numbers into groups) or using mnemonic devices.
The details placed in short-term the memory will eventually either fade away and be lost or become stored as long-term memory. The keys to moving information from short-term to long-term memory involve attention, repetition, and association. The memory of any piece of information will improve if you are:
1. less distracted and more focused on the information you want to store.
2. exposed to the information more frequently and for longer periods of time.
3. able to associate the new information with information you already have.
During the third important stage, or memory retrieval, you are able to recall any information stored in long-term memory. The more efficiently the information in encoded and stored, though, the easier it will be to remember.
How growing older affects memory
The human brain has what scientists call plasticity, meaning it can change its structure in response to new stimuli. This is a good news/bad news scenario.
As we age, the brain loses cells, changes connections between cells, and generally shrinks in size. These structural and chemical changes effectively impair the memory and reduce cognitive function with age.
Brain plasticity means you can create new connections with age, so, you are able to learn new things and strengthen the memories at the same time. Studies show that exercise and mental stimulation keep our brains sharp well into our 80s.
It’s when you stop using your brain power that memory declines with age. Maintaining an active mind and learning new things is critical to healthy aging.
How hearing loss affects memory
So, what makes hearing a part of this memory equation? Will hearing loss really affect your memory?
Researchers have found that hearing loss does impact the memory. It’s not a hard concept to grasp. We already know that storing information in long-term memory relies on your ability to pay attention.
Imagine having a conversation with someone. When you have hearing loss, you may not be able to hear part of what is being said and that information is never able to properly. Later on, when you need to recall the information, it’s not there.
When you’re only hearing part of what is being said, you have to devote mental resources to figuring out the meaning of the information through context. In that struggle to understand, much information is distorted or lost.
Add to that the fact that the brain is able to reorganize itself to compensate for hearing loss. With reduced sound stimulation, the part of the brain responsible for auditory processing weakens and the brain then recruits this area for other tasks.
Improve your memory, schedule a hearing test
The answer to improving your memory storage as we age is clear. Keep the mind active and sharp by challenging yourself and continuing to learn new things. Don’t forget, also, a little physical exercise goes a long way.
Second, and equally as important, take steps necessary to improve hearing. Amplifying sound stimulation with hearing aids allows for better encoding and information storage, especially during conversations. In addition, the enhanced sound stimulation ensures the areas of the brain that process sound stay strong.
Let the brain games alone and focus more on learning something new and be sure to schedule a hearing test.
Hearing loss is a growing problem in the United States, one that involves 48 million people nationwide, or, around 20 percent of the entire population. The chances you know someone who has hearing loss are around 1 in 5.
For most people, hearing loss boils down to excessive exposure to loud noises or simply the consequences of aging. For some individuals, though, hearing loss is a sign of a less common condition.
Consider six poorly understood hearing and balance disorders you should know more about.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV involves vertigo related to a collection of calcium carbonates crystals, or “ear rocks,” that form inside the inner ear. The medical name for these crystals is otoconia.
The ear rocks typically occur due to a head injury, an infection, or similar disorders. Symptoms of BVVP include dizziness, poor balance, lightheadedness, and nausea. They may worsen with changes in head position.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can heal without therapy, but there are treatment options available including head exercises designed to move the crystals out of the inner ear structures. Drug therapy is also sometimes used and, occasionally, surgery.
Labyrinthitis is a disease that involves inflammation and/or irritation that affects the inner ear and hearing nerves – usually related to a viral, or less commonly, a bacterial, infection. This swelling interrupts the transmission of sensory information to the brain, causing difficulties with balance, hearing, and even vision.
The treatments generally offered include antiviral or antibacterial drugs and therapies used to control the symptoms of dizziness or nausea. If quickly diagnosed and treated, labyrinthitis usually causes no permanent damage. However, if left alone, permanent hearing loss can result.
Ménière’s disease is an inner ear problem that leads to vertigo, progressive hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
The cause of Ménière’s disease is not fully known but it may be be a combination of several factors, including poor fluid drainage of the inner ear, unusual immune response, viral infection, genetic predisposition, and head injury.
Treatment options include medications for vertigo, hearing aids for hearing loss and tinnitus relief, antibiotics to treat infections, and surgery for severe cases.
An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor of the hearing and balance nerves that disrupts the transmission of hearing and balance data to the brain. Although this tumor does not spread to other organs, it can become large enough to cause hearing loss and balance problems.
There are over 5,000 cases of acoustic neuroma annually in the US. Treatment generally includes surgical removal of the tumor or radiation. Without treatment, the acoustic neuroma may eventually push into the brain, threatening neurological function and even life.
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)
Autoimmune inner ear disease is an uncommon but progressive condition directly related to the immune cells attacking the mechanisms of the inner ear. Like most autoimmune disorders, the cause is not well understood.
Symptoms can include hearing loss, balance problems, and tinnitus. Diagnosis includes hearing tests and also blood tests to check for general autoimmune disease.
Treatment opportunities are limited but growing, currently; they include some combination of steroids, other medications, plasmapheresis, and hearing aids or cochlear implants for hearing loss.
Otosclerosis is a problem that involves the hardening of bones in the inner ear bones. These bones are critical elements in the transmission of sound vibrations to the inner ear and then to the brain. The hardening of these bones interferes will eventually lead to slowly progressing hearing loss.
Otosclerosis is usually genetic, so it runs in families. If one parent has the disorder, there is a 25 percent chance of the child developing it, as well; two parents have the condition that likelihood increases to 50 percent.
Treatment options for mild forms of the disease include long-term observation or hearing aids. Sodium fluoride is sometimes offered to slow the progression of the disorder. In certain situations, a surgical procedure called stapedectomy is done to remove the hardened bones and replaced them with a prosthetic device.