Everyone wants to preserve their memory, right? So, what should we do to help retain our brain power in the future? Research doesn’t look kindly on “brain training” games that claim to help. But we do know there is a clear connection between healthy hearing and a healthy memory.
Here’s how human memory works and why treating hearing loss might just give yours a boost.
How human memory works
Human memory is complex, and there’s 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. We also understand that the development of memories occurs in three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval.
In stage one, 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.
At stage two, which involves memory storage, short-term or working memory will hold about seven pieces of information for only about 20-30 seconds. There are techniques to expand this capacity such as chunking (the breaking down of long strings of numbers into groups) or using mnemonic devices. The memory of any piece of information will improve if you are:
- Less distracted and more focused on the information you want to store.
- Exposed to the information more frequently and for longer periods of time.
- Able to associate the new information with information you already have.
During the third 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 brain has plasticity, meaning it can change its structure in response to new stimuli. As you age, the brain begins to lose cells, change connections between cells, and generally shrinks in size. These structural and chemical changes effectively impair the memory and reduce cognitive function with age.
However, through brain plasticity, you create new connections as you age, so, you 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.
How hearing loss affects memory
Researchers have found that hearing loss does impact the memory. Think about 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 be properly stored in your memory. Later on, when you need to recall the information, it’s not there.
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
How we can improve our memories? Keep the mind active and sharp by continuing to learn new things. Also, a little physical exercise goes a long way. And be sure to enhance your 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.
If you’d like more information, or schedule a hearing screening, call us at Hearing Health Solutions, (888) 638-5095.