Can Tinnitus Cause Memory Loss?

brain and neuron

Many patients with tinnitus are unfamiliar with the potential risks and conditions frequently associated with hearing loss. As many as 90% of individuals with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. Mild cognitive impairment to sustained memory loss are only a couple of the numerous risk factors associated with hearing loss. We have identified some of these associations below, as well as the science behind the confluence and potential treatment options.

Is It True That Tinnitus Impairs Cognitive Efficiency?

Tinnitus, phantom sounds heard in the ear(s) or brain that are not associated with external sounds, can have many impacts on a person’s life. People with tinnitus often report difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and hearing. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that there may be a link between tinnitus and poorer cognitive abilities in general – and this includes memory.

"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
– Steve D.
Which Treble Health solution is right for you?

There are many ways to measure cognitive function and many different cognitive domains that make up our cognitive abilities. Tinnitus has been shown to impair working memory. Additionally, recent research from 2020 supports the idea that individuals who have tinnitus are likely to take longer to respond to things, make more errors when processing information, and produce fewer correct answers on memory tasks. However, the answer to this question is probably not as simple as it seems. We know that most people with tinnitus have hearing impairment – and there are many research articles linking untreated hearing problems to cognitive dysfunction. So, then, it becomes difficult to completely separate the effects of hearing loss and tinnitus on cognitive performance.

When evaluating whether or not tinnitus causes mild cognitive impairment or if hearing loss is at fault for poor cognitive performance, it is important to determine whether or not tinnitus and or hearing loss has been addressed or treated. Individuals with tinnitus who are using hearing aids or receiving some form of therapeutic intervention may not be as likely to demonstrate poor cognitive performance as those who have gone without any type of formal or specialized treatment for chronic tinnitus.

Why Do Researchers Think That Tinnitus May Interfere With Memory?

scientist in a lab

Many people with tinnitus have to expend extra mental effort to cope with it. This means that they are consciously or unconsciously using strategies to make the tinnitus less noticeable or less bothersome. Although it may not appear to be “work,” this kind of constant effort can be mentally fatiguing. Additionally, when someone is distracted by a sound such as tinnitus, they are likely to be less able to focus their attention and energy on the task at hand. Consider this: when your attention is divided among multiple different tasks, do you perform optimally on each individual activity? Increasing bodies of research have suggested that tinnitus patients are essentially multitasking, and multitasking has been found to be not as beneficial as so many have claimed. Rather, it is instead an indicator that focus is divided and tasks are not being completed as efficiently and accurately as possible.

Some researchers also believe that many are also experiencing anxiety, which creates additional difficulties (and we know that individuals with tinnitus often experience anxiety). Anxiety and depression are both linked to tinnitus, and individuals with tinnitus have been found to have high rates of anxiety and depression. Both of these mood disorders have been linked to cognitive impairment and cognitive decline. The precise reasons for cognitive dysfunction in those with mood disorders is still being debated, but the ties between cognitive impairments, executive functions, and mental health are substantial.

Do Individuals With Tinnitus Have a Higher Risk of Dementia?

At Treble Health, we have not observed evidence to substantiate the notion that tinnitus increases the risk of cognitive decline. It is worth noting that tinnitus is primarily associated with hearing loss, which is known to be linked to cognitive changes. Consequently, a correlation between tinnitus and cognitive decline may not necessarily imply a direct correlation. We acknowledge the importance of further research and future studies in this field to provide additional insights that can help us comprehend the relationships and risk factors involved.

One of the most important phrases to remember when evaluating cognitive function and cognitive decline is “correlation is not causation.” This means that a statistically significant association does not necessarily mean that the onset of one disease or condition will unequivocally lead to the onset of another. Instead, there is a link that suggests the need for further examination. This is true of the link between tinnitus and cognitive dysfunction: while there is some evidence that has identified a link, the precise meaning of that link and whether it is tied to a third condition or a host of environmental factors is unknown.

Is It Possible That Memory May Improve When Someone Has Tinnitus?

couple with arms around each other

In some instances, one may find that the presence of tinnitus may strengthen specific memories. For example, individuals who have experienced trauma may find that their emotional links to tinnitus are particularly strong – and some researchers believe that their traumatic memories may interact with their tinnitus in a way that can exacerbate their issues. There are many complicated mechanisms involved in these pathways, but the link between tinnitus and traumatic memory is established in the medical literature.

Just as chronic tinnitus should not be linked definitively to memory loss, it should not be definitively linked to improvements in memory. Cognitive function is impacted by hearing health, but the precise nature of the link between tinnitus and these changes can shift between the negative and the positive, depending on the individual involved and their unique set of circumstances and state of their health. Hearing loss may sharpen other senses and change memory, but the exact nature of that change cannot always be predicted, whether that is an increase in memory, or an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

What Should I Do If I Think I Might Be Experiencing Memory Loss and Tinnitus?

Never hesitate to contact your primary care physician with concerns about your health, including issues related to cognitive performance or auditory function. They can refer you to the appropriate specialists who can address your issues. Tinnitus severity may be tied to some of the cognitive impairments associated with hearing loss and other changes to normal hearing, and hearing research is currently developing different tools to address hearing loss and all of the changes to cognitive performance, mental health, and physical health that can come as a result. If ever there are significant differences in your health, it is advisable to speak with a health professional to address your concerns. Whether you speak with an audiologist to determine the cause of tinnitus and to evaluate what can be done or to speak directly with a health professional to evaluate working memory, seeking help is the best course of action.

Changes to the inner ear should be treated by a doctor, and should not be self-medicated or even self-identified. Because auditory memory correlates to brain processes, any hearing loss should be treated as a potentially serious concern, and brought before a qualified health professional for further testing and evaluation. In some cases, hearing loss is little more than a response to external stimuli or illness, and will clear up. In others, memory loss is a very real concern for those with hearing loss or tinnitus. Prior to meeting with a physician, be sure to take note of all changes to the ear, including any pain, injury, or illness. Also take note of any memory loss or notable changes to brain function, whether or not they seem to be related to tinnitus. Presenting your physician with all of the symptoms you have noticed will give both of you the best leg up in tackling your symptoms.


woman holding her head in her hands

The risk of cognitive decline can cause significant levels of anxiety, as can hearing loss and chronic tinnitus. Although the exact relationship between cognitive impairment and hearing impairment is not known, the two do seem to be related, leading many to evaluate the possible treatments for both. Tinnitus effects can be minimized by a hearing aid and other treatments, like tinnitus retraining therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. While hearing loss and incident dementia and other sources of cognitive decline can be treated or minimized by cognitive treatments. Therapy has ties to improvements in both tinnitus and cognitive performance, while dementia symptoms and hearing loss symptoms alike can be addressed with medication, lifestyle changes, such as improvements to diet and movement habits, and preventative measures.

The loss of normal hearing can come as a result of damage to the auditory cortex and auditory pathway injury can lead to changes to brain behavior, including how the brain processes sound and memory. From head injuries to social isolation, to sound exposure and trauma, phantom sounds and changes to the prefrontal cortex often benefit from changes made following early detection. A physician along with an audiologist will most effectively help determine the relationship between tinnitus, hearing loss, and memory loss in order to identify the best way to minimize symptoms and protect against further cognitive risk.

Next Step: Take The Tinnitus Quiz

More To Explore


Treble Health Audiologists Are
Professional Members Of The


Tinnitus Web Class
THIS Wednesday only

A special online event to help you find relief from tinnitus.

Class starts Weds at 8 p.m. EST.

Memorial Day Special Offer

Save 20% On The Best Bundle For Tinnitus Relief

Only Available Until Tuesday, May 30th

By clicking ‘Unlock $700 Off’, you consent to receiving information about Treble products and services via email and accept Treble’s Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.