When it comes to hearing loss, there are a lot of stories about people who have trouble with their minds and forget things. In some cases, these things are linked directly. For example, a person with hearing loss who lives alone might worry that they won’t be able to hear an intruder breaking into their home.
People say they lose their memories at the same time they start to lose their hearing. This makes you wonder if the two are related or not. But other links are harder to figure out.
To ensure that these relationships are not just based on stories or anecdotes, it is essential to do scientific studies with complete statistical analyses. Even though there have been some studies on the link between hearing loss, memory loss, and mental distress, only large-scale studies with large sample sizes can tell us if there is a statistically crucial cause-and-effect link.
A large-scale study of these connections was needed, and a new study from Japan does just that. Let’s look at what was found and guess why it was found that way.
Japanese study finds a link between hearing loss, psychological stress, and memory loss.
This large-scale study, published in the journal Geriatrics Gerontology International, looked at 137,723 Japanese adults age 65 or older who did not have a clinical diagnosis of dementia. About 9% of this large group, or 12,389 people, said they had hearing loss.
Instead of comparing the whole group of people with hearing loss to the rest, they split the group up by age, gender, whether they smoked or drank, their level of education, the number of people in their household, how much money they spent, and how many clinical diagnoses required outpatient visits.
Considering these factors, it became possible to look at a subgroup like 70-year-old women who don’t smoke, have a college degree, two children, a moderate income, and no major health problems. The researchers then looked at the effects of hearing loss in this smaller group, keeping all the other factors the same.
With this statistical method, the researchers were able to ensure that their results were not caused by other things that we already know are linked to mental stress and memory loss.
Even when other items were taken into account, the effect of hearing loss on these groups was quite remarkable. Psychological stress was reported by 39.7% of those who had hearing loss but only 19.3% of those who did not have hearing loss. Even more important was the difference in how they lost their memories. 37.7% of people with hearing loss also said they had memory loss (but not dementia), while only 5.2% said they did.
An important study
Researchers will be able to learn a lot more about the link between hearing loss, memory loss, and emotional stress now that these results are out. Even though we might think that other things, like health problems, tight budgets, or age, also play a role, this study was able to control for these different things and find that hearing loss was the only thing that made a difference.
With more qualitative research that collects the stories of people with hearing loss and other conditions, researchers can figure out why they have such high rates. They might also be able to tell if the other two conditions are caused by hearing loss.
How does hearing loss lead to stress?
Those who have lost their hearing may experience stress, anxiety, and depression because of their inability to communicate effectively with others. Hearing loss can also lead to social isolation due to the inability to hear people talk during social gatherings in restaurants or bars. This can make people feel left out and alone, leading to loneliness and isolation.
How does hearing loss lead to memory loss?
A 2020 Lancet commission report says that hearing loss is one of the top risk factors for dementia, which is one of the leading causes of memory loss in older adults.
Hearing loss can make the brain work harder because it has to try harder to hear and fill in the gaps. That takes away from other ways of thinking and remembering. Another possibility is that hearing loss makes the brain shrink faster as people age. A third possibility is that people with hearing loss spend less time with others, which is a massive part of keeping your mind active. If you can’t hear well, you might not go out as much, so your brain doesn’t get as much work.
Time to check your hearing
If you’re concerned that your hearing loss might b affecting you cognitively, we’re here for you. A hearing test can help us determine the best course of action to help you relieve stress and retain your memory capacities. Contact us today to set up an appointment for a hearing test.