In 1927, the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) declared May as Better Hearing and Speech Month to promote hearing loss prevention and encourage hearing loss screenings.
Now, 92 years strong, the campaign continues to raise awareness across the U.S. with multiple organizations participating, such as the American Academy of Audiology, TruHearing, American Academy of Otolaryngology, American Tinnitus Association and others.
In this post, we’ll explore the many ways that hearing loss and deafness can impact our lives with regard to balance and memory. Plus, we’ll offer ways to help if you’re already suffering from hearing loss.
How Hearing Affects Balance
Many of the 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss report issues with balance as a result of their impairment. They typically report two different experiences:
- This can be categorized by lightheadedness, fainting, floating sensations or merely feeling unsteady while standing or walking.
- This entails a distinct feeling of spinning or moving when otherwise still.
Both issues may have links to the vestibular system (inner ear), as that, along with muscle/joint nerves and vision is how our bodies process balance.
For example, an inner ear infection or an object stuck in your ear could cause these symptoms, as well as a head injury or ear drum damage.
Depending on the source of the issue, a medical professional may treat the symptoms using one or more of the following methods:
- Vestibular rehabilitation
- Adaption exercises
- Habituation therapy
- Functional activities
- Canalith Repositioning Procedures (CRP)
- Canal management maneuvers
- Counseling and biofeedback
How Hearing Affects Memory
Some who suffer from hearing loss may also notice that their memory shows signs of decline. This is unfortunately no coincidence. There are multiple reasons why hearing loss is linked to memory loss and more serious cognitive conditions such as dementia.
Prolonged silence. When the brain is in sound isolation for extended periods of time, areas of the brain go unused, which shifts those areas to other uses, away from where we retain information.
Stress. Straining to hear what others are saying can be very troubling and cause anxiety that otherwise wouldn’t exist. The more stress you endure, the harder your brain has to work to overcome it, which can impact cognitive functions and spark memory loss.
Vascular disease. If you’re suffering from heart problems, that means that there is inadequate blood flow, which can lead to hearing loss and cause the issues mentioned above.
The good news is that research points to amplification devices such as hearing aids can help prevent and/or minimize memory loss.
The Link Between Hearing Loss and Fatigue
Some who suffer from hearing loss report chronic feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. The reason for this is simple: when you have a loss of hearing, your brain is constantly working to fill in the blanks of what your ears are missing, which overloads your cognitive capacity.
Deciphering speech and sounds, whether it be through lip reading or body language cues or reading subtitles on screens, can be draining and cause stress and anxiety that leads to fatigue.
If you notice excessive feelings of tiredness that you suspect is linked to your hearing loss, be sure to give yourself breaks, meditate, practice mindfulness, and use external tools such as recording devices and apps to capture what you need to hear so you can go back and review what you may have missed.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
Good hearing aids can be a lifesaver where declining hearing is concerned. What’s exciting is that the advancement of technology has only broadened the landscape of options to include instruments that be implanted inside the ear canal for an invisible solution or even link to your cell phone.
There are many options available depending on the severity of your hearing loss. Consult with an audiology expert who can best recommend what’s right for your needs.
Get Help with Ear Problems
If you’re experiencing signs of hearing loss, or suspect your hearing is in decline, it may be time to see a professional. The Ear, Nose & Throat/Allergy/Audiology experts at Western Washington Medical Group are here to help. Visit this page to learn more about their services or for more general inquiries, complete the form here.