How Your Hearing & Memory Are Connected

Isn’t it amazing when you turn on the radio and a song from the past comes on and it takes you back to high school, summer vacations, your wedding or cherished times with friends and family.  For me it is Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Get Back”.  It doesn’t matter how many times I hear these songs, what kind of mood I am in or the weather outside, I am instantly transported to my childhood home listening to mother sing along to her record player while doing housework or cooking.

A study recorded in Live Science suggests why we tie sound with memories. The same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible for storing emotional memories, relays study researcher Benedetto Sacchetti of the National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy.  Sacchetti goes on to explain that sensory information like a particular sound is coupled with emotional information such as a specific memory and is stored in the auditory cortex as a bundle, this allows the sound to acquire an emotional meaning.

This information leads me to wonder if I had trouble hearing, would these specific memories also dissipate? Could hearing loss be tied to diminished comprehension?  In a 2013 study by Frank Lin, M.D. of the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health AARP reports that hearing loss seemed to speed up memory loss.  One of the contributing factors the study found was that hearing loss increases the effort to strain to understand, stressing the brain.  Compared with people of normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had 30-40% greater risk of lost mental sharpness.

Based on these studies, the link between memory and hearing so apparent that it is important to be proactive about protecting it.  Instinctively we know the importance of safeguarding our hearing, getting the proper device should be just as inherent.  Imagine if your hearing were to disappear and you couldn’t hear the songs that triggered your beautiful memories.