Is There a Link Between Hearing Loss and Fatigue?

Is There a Link Between Hearing Loss and Fatigue?

If you notice yourself becoming increasingly tired after talking to someone, watching television, or even after a phone call then you might be experiencing listening fatigue. 

What is Listening Fatigue?

As sound is received through the ears, it is processed by a complex system involving the transmission of vibrations on hair cells through auditory nerves to the brain. The brain then interprets this input into something we understand. 

Listening fatigue can happen to anyone however it is more prevalent and tends to happen faster for those with hearing loss. Why is this? Because when the hair cells don’t receive all of the input, and sound, then the brain has to work harder in order to process what it does receive into something we understand. 

In fact, the connection between hearing loss and listening fatigue is so strong that oftentimes it is considered an early symptom of hearing loss.

What to do if you notice listening fatigue?

If you have started to notice an increase in tiredness after conversations or listening to shows or meetings, it may be time to get your hearing checked. 

When you see a hearing health professional for the first time, they will want to review your past medical history and discuss the signs and symptoms you are experiencing. It will be important to mention the increase in weariness from listening. Another common symptom of early hearing loss is described best by people when they say, “I can hear, I just can’t understand””.

After talking about these changes with your provider, you will likely be asked to sit for a hearing test or audiogram. They will test different frequencies at different volumes to determine any gaps in your hearing. 

As previously described, listening fatigue comes from the brain’s increased workload, – trying to decipher sounds with some gaps into something understandable. This makes more sense when you understand that hearing loss impacts different frequencies at different rates. For example, in age-related hearing loss, people tend to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies first.

Treatment Options

After meeting with a hearing health provider, they may recommend a hearing device to help treat any hearing loss and therefore help with fatigue. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are both used to treat hearing loss, however, age-related hearing loss is more commonly treated with hearing aids. 

There are many types of hearing aids. From different sizes to how they fit and even how they look, finding one that is comfortable is the first step, and then deciding on different technology options. 

Today’s hearing aids are typically digital as opposed to the analog options in the past. Analog hearing aids workSwif by amplifying all sounds, while digital hearing aids can address the exact frequencies that need correcting. Furthermore, you can program hearing aids for different settings. A good example of this is having a restaurant setting that dims background noise and amplifies the sound of the person you are facing and talking to. 

These new advancements in technology with hearing aids help make hearing easier, and therefore simultaneously reduce listening fatigue. 

How to Cope with Listening Fatigue

There are several ways to cope with listening fatigue.

  • Take breaks– Take quiet breaks from noise by going for a walk in nature or taking a nap. You can also use earplugs when in the office to reduce surrounding noise while you work. Reducing unnecessary noise will help to focus your listening energy on the things you want to hear. Another important tip is to use downtime doing something that doesn’t require listening. For example, reading a book or going for a walk instead of watching the television. 
  • Reduce background noise– When speaking with someone in a noisy environment, you have to work harder to understand them, which can increase your weariness with listening. Try to minimize background noise by meeting in quieter environments or using noise-canceling headphones when on a phone call or in a meeting. 

Ultimately, listening fatigue can be a symptom of hearing loss, and therefore seeing and speaking with a hearing health provider to address it is an important first step. Our compassionate team is here to help. We will discuss treatment options as well as tips for reducing fatigue moving forward.