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We all experience fatigue in response to a variety of factors – increased job responsibilities, lack of sleep, sickness etc. But if you find yourself more tired than usual and feeling exhausted regularly, this may be a symptom of hearing loss – a chronic medical condition that impacts 1 in 8 people.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss including existing medical conditions (hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes), environmental exposure to loud noise, aging, and genetic history. Impaired hearing often occurs gradually which means it can be overlooked for quite some time. This produces a range of symptoms including:
- A buzzing, ringing, or clicking like noise that is referred to as tinnitus
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices
- Asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, and/or slowly
- Sounds are muffled and unclear, making it difficult to follow a conversation
- Reading mouths to identify words
- Difficulty hearing, particularly in environments with background noise
- Ability to hear more clearly in one ear compared to the other
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly which can significantly strain communication, often causing listening fatigue. Navigating conversations while experiencing the symptoms previously described can be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.
Hearing Loss & Fatigue
Additionally, hearing loss overworks the brain which also contributes to the listening fatigue. The brain plays an integral role in our ability to hear and understand sound. Our ears absorb sound which travels down the ear canal and activates the cochlea. The thousands of hair cells in the cochlea help translate soundwaves into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to the brain which makes meaning of what we hear.
Hearing loss most commonly is the result of damage done to the hair cells which disrupts this process. When hair cells lose sensitivity or die, they can no longer convert soundwaves which causes the brain to expend more energy to process incoming information. This produces fatigue and can have people feeling drained after conversations, during social activities, performing job tasks etc.
Treating Hearing Loss
The most effective way to alleviate listening fatigue is by addressing the underlying cause: hearing loss. The first step is to schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare specialist for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a noninvasive and simple process that measures hearing ability in both ears and identifies any impairment. This establishes your hearing health and informs the treatment that will most effectively meet your specific hearing needs.
Fortunately, there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are small electronic devices that absorb, amplify and process sound. Increasing one’s ability to hear, hearing aids can substantially reduce listening fatigue. People are able to hear and process sound with greater ease and this reduces the amount of brainpower used to understand that sound. This also alleviates the various symptoms that contribute to fatigue as well. Hearing aids are more advanced than ever, offering a wide variety of features that allow them to be seamlessly integrated into your life.
Protect Your Hearing Health
Listening with or without hearing loss can be tiresome. So, in addition to treating any impairment, there are other ways you can further protect your hearing:
- Take listening breaks: our ears (and brain) need time to rest and recover from constantly absorbing and processing stimuli; so, it is important to take listening breaks throughout the day.
- Reduce background noise: minimize background noise by turning off the television, not playing music while trying to focus, rolling up the windows if driving and trying to follow instructions etc. This allows your brain to concentrate on the conversation you are having.
- Limit exposure: when you can, avoid or limit the time you spend in environments with loud background noise. This can make it much more challenging to hear and it can be a taxing setting to navigate.
- Take a nap: taking short naps allows your body to rest and provides you with a boost of energy
Prioritizing your hearing health has countless benefits including: reducing your risk of developing other medical conditions, enhancing communication, improving relationships, and overall quality of life!