Hearing Loss & Fatigue

In Brain Health, Health, Hearing Aids, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Research, Science by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

We all get tired after work is done. But if you have hearing loss, you may feel especially run-down after you clock off at 5. We’re not just talking about the tiredness the average person feels after their work day, but something more profound. When you get tired with hearing loss, it takes the wind out of your sails, leaving you physically and mentally exhausted until the following day.

Hearing loss blogger David Copithorne described it succinctly when he wrote about how he would feel after a particularly tough day at work: “This let-down wasn’t the usual worn-out feeling after a long day. It was pure exhaustion, the deepest kind of fatigue.”

If this sounds like you, it’s not in your imagination. There is a scientific explanation for it.


Hearing is a joint effort between the brain and the ear

It may seem strange that something like hearing loss could contribute to a loss in our energy levels. Many people believe that hearing is just something we do from our ears without much effort from any other part of the body, but it actually involves the brain and ear working together to receive and process audio signals.

An understanding of the exhaustion that comes from hearing loss might be easier to understand by first understanding how hearing loss affects the relationship between the ear and the brain.  We hear though the transfer of sound waves from the air to the delicate hair cells inside the ear. When our hearing is lost through ageing or exposure to chronic noise, these cells are damaged and fail to send the correct auditory information to the brain via the auditory nerve. The sound signals arrive to the brain with significant gaps present.

Forced to work with what it receives, the brain must then use this incomplete sound information alongside the speaker’s body language and contextual clues to form meaningful statements. Because of this increased effort, more calories are used by the brain, which saps our cognitive and physical energy.


Solution: Get treated for hearing loss with the use of hearing aids

By improving your ability to hear and understand others, the use of hearing aids reduces the cognitive load that the brain must shoulder when it has to deal with incomplete auditory information.  This makes it less likely you will suffer from the kind of extreme exhaustion that afflicts those with hearing loss.

This conclusion was reached in a recent study by researchers from Vanderbilt University. They studied adults aged 47-69 who displayed signs of moderate to profound hearing loss, with the aim of measuring the effect that hearing aids had on mental fatigue. Through a series of tests, the researchers found that study participants’ reaction times declined as the tests progressed, which correlated with mental fatigue. But when the participants wore their hearing aids, the mental fatigue was absent.

Here are some other things you can do to reduce the changes of fatigue:

Regular naps: Revealing the strategies that have worked for his own exhaustion, David Copithorne swears by short naps to ward off the tiredness: “taking a quick nap in the middle of the day, before I get run down, helps prevent the kind of complete depletion that would otherwise knock me out for 12-to-24 hours.”

Regular noise breaks.  Anyone will benefit from a walk in nature to get away from the noise of the office or restaurant. Once you’re there, try to find somewhere to relax and close your eyes for a few minutes. For those who wear hearing aids, it doesn’t hurt to take them off for a little while to give your ears a complete rest.  Try to find ways to relax without subjecting your ears to more sound, such as meditation, reading or painting.  If you are an office worker, eat your lunch in a park close to your office to steal a quiet moment before you head back to the chaos.

Remove background noise from your surrounding environment. With less background noise, you can more easily hear the word of those around you, reducing the cognitive load. This means your brain is less likely to exhaust itself. It’s not always possible to control the sound around you, but every little reduction in background noise helps you ear better.


Exceptional Hearing Care

If you’ve been feeling particularly tired and unsure as to why, have you considered whether it might be hearing loss? At Exceptional Hearing Care, we have years of experience providing comprehensive hearing tests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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