Your “Forgetfulness” Could Be a Sign of Another Problem—and It’s Not Alzheimer’s

You can't remember something you never heard—and you can't follow directions if you didn't hear them right.

Magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the brain (sagittal view)Chalie Chulapornsiri/Shutterstock

How hearing loss can lead to memory loss

Memory loss and confusion are among the most frightening aspects of aging: Is it a sign of dementia? Alzheimer’s disease? A new study from the University of Toronto suggests that at least some forgetfulness may be due to hearing loss.

The research, published in the Canadian Journal on Aging, analyzed cognitive screens in a group of elderly people who were complaining about forgetfulness and other mental processing issues that suggest dementia. The researchers found that while most of the patients’ brains were functioning fine—it was their hearing that was suspect. Yet only 20 per cent were wearing a hearing aid. The researchers point out that you can’t remember something you never heard. Plus, following directions is tough if you can’t hear them. (Reading in this font could improve your memory.)

The Canadian research builds on previous studies linking hearing loss to dementia. If you feel like your memory is giving you trouble, talk to your doctor about a hearing screen. According to a report on the study, people that have untreated hearing loss could eventually lead to dementia. People who have trouble communicating are at risk for social isolation and loneliness—conditions that can contribute to dementia. Only a fraction of the people who need hearing aids wear them.

Next, here are 50 everyday habits that reduce your risk of dementia.

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