Memory Loss & Psychological Distress with Hearing Loss

Memory Loss & Psychological Distress with Hearing Loss

In hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

While hearing loss is an ear issue, its effects are often underestimated. What begins with common misunderstandings often escalates into feelings of chronic depression, social anxiety, and isolation. Over time, if unaddressed hearing loss can amplify into mobility issues and cognitive decline increasing the risk of dementia. Recent research has highlighted that untreated hearing loss can contribute to memory loss and psychological distress. 

Memory Loss, & Psychological Distress

Psychological distress refers to non-specific symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression which can often be triggered by specific moments from the past of high stress. A traumatic event such as an accident or assault can leave an individual with chronic stress, anxiety leading to confusion and even memory loss. Depression specifically effects short term memory which allows you to hold recent information for a short period of time, such as a phone number or address, while long term memory is usually untouched. This in part may be due to a person’s distraction when suffering from dissatisfaction and sadness of chronic depression. 

Long Term Memory Loss Due to Anxiety Disorders

A stress response helps you confront life-threatening situations. When your body reacts to real or perceived threats, electrical activity in the brain increases, which produce adrenaline and cortisol. When stress and anxiety are sustained for an extended amount of time it can result in memory loss due to the taxing on the bodies resources.  For instance, individuals living with anxiety disorders can experience memory loss, such as troubles remembering childhood experiences. It is believed that greater anxiety disorders throughout your life is a risk factors for dementia, a neurological disorder which effects two or more cognitive functions such as remembering how to complete everyday tasks or long-term memories.

Connecting Hearing Loss, Memory Loss and Psychological Distress

A 2019 Japanese study explored manners in which hearing loss contributes to the development of other phycological conditions. The study analyzed data from 137,723 people, over the age of 65 who did not have dementia. The participants were asked to self-report their experiences with hearing loss. 9% of the respondents reported hearing loss and the researcher compared this with reported instances of memory loss and psychological distress.  


The researchers were able to deduce that 39.7% also self-reported psychological distress compared to 19.3% of people without hearing loss. 37.7% self-reported having memory loss issues compared to 5.2% of people without hearing loss. The significance of these findings using such a vast national data bank helped the researchers to create significant connections between these conditions, though it was not clear which symptoms came first: hearing loss, memory loss or phycological distress.


“Hearing loss takes an enormous toll on older people in so many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting activities of daily living”, explains study’s co-author Yoko Kobayashi. The scientist reasoned that hearing loss may in fact be a stressor, causing phycological distress and inevitable memory loss.

Strained Communication

Hearing loss reduces a person to communicate and can even arrive with tinnitus, a phantom buzzing in the ears which amplifies stress. It’s not only confusing to struggle to hear complete words and conversations but exhausting. Hearing loss can make it seem easier to avoid activities where the need to socialize.

Social Withdrawal 

Loneliness can have more risks to your health and longevity than smoking 15 cigarettes a day the CDC reports. Humans are social creatures and when hearing loss makes it difficult to connect to our loved ones it can also increase the risk of developing memory issues associated with dementia.


Seeking Treatment

The good news is that while most forms of hearing loss are irreversible, they can be treated effectively with hearing aids. For people who have suffered traumatic experiences causing phycological distress, hearing loss can add to the confusion. However, hearing aids amplify the sounds struggled with based on a hearing exam. This allows people to connect to loved ones, friends, family, and co-workers allowing you to communicate clearer. This can reduce stress that amplifies physiological distress and memory issues. 


The more social and connected to the world we can be by using hearing aids, the more we can focus on the present moment, build new experiences, and continue to stay engaged. To find out more about hearing aids and if they are right for you or a loved one, contact us today. We can schedule a hearing exam and help find the best solution for your particular hearing needs.