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Retrieving old or making new: Memories and untreated hearing loss

Posted on April 3, 2023
Middle-aged couple dancing outside

Remember that song you loved when you were in high school? The one that even now, when you hear the opening notes, you know it immediately, start to hum or sing along and you feel the joy, freedom, anxiety, love or whatever emotion was your high school state? That’s a memory based on sound.

Memories created from sounds are some of the stickiest memories – the ones that are strong and hang around. For many, memories based on sound, especially music, are more vivid than those conjured by other senses like sight and smell.

What’s going to happen when your hearing loss keeps you from hearing the first notes of that song? Will you still be able to revisit that memory? Is your untreated hearing loss cutting you off from your past?

The Washington Post wrote a terrific article about the strength of music to summon ‘flashbulb’ memories – those memories so vivid you can still find details you didn’t notice before.

And what about new memories? If you can’t hear the rustle of leaves in the trees on a quiet walk, the rhythm of your partner’s laugh, an intimate whisper during a romantic meal, how will you retrieve those memories later? Without the sounds as a guide for your memory bank, you may find it harder to revisit those moments.

Things you see don’t hang around to become memories the way things you hear do. The combination of sound and emotion is the strongest builder of memories. And not all memories are just memories. Some are things that protect us.  

Some of our memories are learned behaviours such as the sound of sizzle telling us the surface is hot. Your memory warning that this means hot won’t be triggered because you can’t hear the sizzle. If you can’t hear that sizzle, you could lead yourself into danger.

If you have untreated hearing loss, you may think you’re coping just fine. Maybe you’ve found ways to get through life – reading lips, asking people to repeat themselves. However, have you considered what you’re leaving behind? Your memories inspired by music; new memories from your family and friends that you just can’t hear the same way anymore? Or awkward social situations because you misinterpreted the sounds you could hear?

Take a look at the big picture and all that sound means to you having a well-rounded, safe life. Don’t let untreated hearing loss take that away from you.

Contact us to schedule a FREE hearing test.