Hear Better and Improve Your Memory

Did you know about the links between memory and hearing? When background noise levels are high—making it difficult to hear—working memory takes a hit. Research shows that people with a better working memory hear better in noise. There’s also a link between hearing loss and dementia.

Let’s get past the worrying parts by focusing on a few things:

  1. If you are concerned about your memory, you probably don’t have dementia. There are some key differences between normal memory lapses and dementia. With normal, healthy aging, you’re more concerned about forgetfulness than your close family members are. With dementia, close family members are much more concerned than the individual is about memory loss.
  2. Improving your memory is possible.
  3. Be aware of lifestyle factors. Get enough sleep and exercise. Exercise—yes—here is another reason!

If you have hearing loss, begin LACE auditory training. LACE training was specifically developed for older adults with hearing loss. (Working memory starts to be affected after age 45.) LACE has a two pronged approach to improving working memory by specifically targeting auditory working memory, but also by working on processing speed (which is directly related to working memory capacity). An added bonus: you’ll hear better in noise.

If you’ve already completed LACE, you can keep going:

  1. Toss the GPS. When you stop using your navigational skills to find your way around, you’re missing the chance to stimulate the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is affected in Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Make an effort to hear and remember names. Names are particularly problematic for people with hearing loss, because there’s no context. If you don’t hear something clearly, it’s impossible to remember it. Make an effort to get the person’s name right the first time. Once you’ve heard it, make an effort to remember it. If you forget, here are some brilliant recovery strategies.
  3. Challenge yourself with Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and Scrabble.
  4. Memorize your grocery list. When you get to the store, try and remember all the items on your list.
  5. Do math in your head. As much as possible, get away from pen, paper, and a calculator. When you go shopping, keep a running tally in your head of how much you’ve spent.
  6. Try brain training games. I just started Lumosity. It’s fun, and you’ll develop skills that directly affect your ability to hear well in challenging listening situations: working memory, processing speed, attention, and flexibility. (If you have hearing loss, start with LACE training first.)
  7. Keep going. Keep learning. Learn to lipread, join an association for lifelong learners, join a book club, take a cooking class—or any other class: first aid, music, dance, yoga, defensive driving, beginner’s sign language, or anything that interests you.

Post other ideas below! Would love to hear from you.

  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Strategies coach, speaker, and Canadian author, who gave her GPS away long before realizing that it was a good brain-boosting move.

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