Hearing Aids and Your Memory - A Healthy Connection

For many people, the holiday season is full of family traditions deeply rooted into their minds by a lifetime of celebrations and quality moments. Fond recollections of loved ones and special times over the years have systematically been stored into pockets of cognitive recall deep inside the brain. These are more commonly known as memories. The actual science of how memories are created is a much longer discussion, however for purposes of this article it is important to understand that the ability to hear clearly along with proper brain functionality are keys to this process.

The link between untreated hearing loss and serious threats that affect brain health such as dementia, depression, social isolation and Alzheimer’s has become stronger in recent years. Therefore, it stands to reason that the process of “creating” new memories is distinctly linked to the ability to hear and understand those precious moments that eventually become memories. For those that wear hearing aids these threats can be more easily controlled or even stopped.

Evidence is mounting that suggests a person who is trying hard to listen and make sense of what’s being said does poorly at remembering what’s said. It almost seems that the brain shifts its resources in order to comprehend real-time speech, leaving very little to file away what’s been said.  Experts call this ‘Cognitive Load’ and it can be described as similar to streaming video on a slow Internet connection. In other words, it sorta works, sometimes – but the results are choppy and nearly useless at best.

Hearing aid technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and nowadays even those using the so-called “cheap” hearing aids are still able to hear more clearly in most day-to-day activities then they could before wearing their hearing devices. With even a limited degree of assisted hearing, the ability to reconnect socially and emotionally improves exponentially.

Here are ten tips to reduce your brain’s cognitive load and increase the speed of your connection with friends and family during the Holidays:

  • Get your hearing tested if you suspect it’s not as acute as it used   to be
  • Maximize your hearing by wearing hearing aids if you have a hearing loss
  • Keep your activities separated so you can concentrate on one thing at a time; cooking the meal while trying to carry on a conversation and decorate the tree makes lumpy gravy.
  • Take a deep breath and try to relax. Find a quiet spot and take a break from noise
  • Remind yourself it’s not necessary to understand every spoken word.  Use your eyes to pick up non-verbal visual cues to reinforce what being said. In other words? Instead of asking people to repeat, ask them to rephrase.  Often times it’s only one word that makes the difference between understanding and not.
  • Trying to hide a disability is stressful. Therefore, talk about your hearing loss and explain your situation to others so that they know you might not understand everything said
  • Keep in mind that others don’t judge you by your disabilities but by how well you overcome them 
  • Avoid being frustrated by people with soft voices in noisy environments, either find a quieter place to have a conversation or move on
  • Familiarize yourself with your hearing aid controls, and which settings are best in noisy environments
  • Reduce the chances of hearing aid failing at the worst possible time by prior proper maintenance and operating on fresh batteries

By finding ways of reducing self-imposed stress and finding solutions to the things you can control when it comes to hearing better, your quality of life will improve, and not just during the Holidays.