Fatigue and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been linked to a number of physical, social and psychological conditions.


Fatigue and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been linked to several physicals, social, and psychological conditions, including dementia, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. One of its lesser-known side effects is fatigue.‍

Fatigue vs. tiredness

Compared with tiredness, fatigue is a more severe and prolonged feeling of being exhausted and lacking energy, often accompanied by a decreased ability to concentrate and perform tasks. It can be physical, mental, or both, and it is often related to a medical condition or overuse of energy.

Tiredness, on the other hand, is a more general feeling of being weary and needing rest. It is typically less severe than fatigue and can often be relieved by a good night's sleep or a short rest period.

It might be helpful to consider them as two levels of "empty." Imagine a car's gas tank. Tiredness might be equivalent to the tank being a little low on gas and in need of a refill, while fatigue might be like the tank is completely empty and needing more than just a quick fill-up to get running again.

How our hearing affects our energy levels

If you have been feeling more tired than usual lately and experiencing hearing loss, there may be a correlation between the two. The reason boils down to a condition known as listening fatigue, a consequence of expending extra effort to hear better.

‍Believe it or not, hearing involves the brain just as much as the ears. Your brain receives sensory input from the inner ear and is responsible for processing sounds and translating them into recognizable speech. Damage to the hair cells of your inner ear—a common cause of hearing loss—limits your ability to hear correctly; when this occurs, your brain is forced to "pick up the slack" and works extra hard to understand what you are hearing. Doing so is taxing and often leads to feelings of exhaustion and decreased energy levels, even if you have refrained from any physical activity.

Additionally, sometimes people with hearing loss might feel sad or frustrated because of their hearing issues, which can also contribute to social withdrawal and the fatigue associated with several emotional conditions such as depression. 

Study shows hearing treatment can help with listening-related fatigue.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK looked at the effects of hearing aids on fatigue. They used two groups of people: the first group was going to start using hearing aids for the first time, and the second group had hearing loss but wasn't using hearing aids. 

Both groups filled out surveys about their hearing, how tired they were, and how much they participated in several social activities, as well as work and physical activities. The people in the first group filled out the surveys before they started using the hearing aids and then again 2 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after they started using them. The people in the second group just filled out the surveys once. The goal of the study was to see if using hearing aids had any impact on how active people were in their daily lives.

This study found that hearing aids made users less fatigued during social situations. The people in this study who used hearing aids also had more social activities and were less limited in their social activities after they started using the hearing aids. Even though this study can't say if being more social caused people to feel less tired, it's still essential for doctors and other hearing healthcare professionals to consider how hearing aids might affect people's social lives and overall well-being.

How could hearing aids help stop fatigue?

‍Wearing hearing devices should significantly reduce these feelings of exhaustion. Because they amplify speech, your brain does not have to work as hard to convert this sensory input into sound, significantly reducing listening fatigue; this should translate to less physical tiredness and a boost in energy.

In the study cited above, hearing aids reduced how tired they felt when engaged in conversation when out in public but did not change how tired they felt in general. As a side benefit, participants also engaged in more social activities. They were less limited in their social activities compared to those in the control group after they started using the hearing aids. 

Other tips for reducing listening fatigue include:

  • Take a short break from the noise, even for a few minutes every hour. Try to find a quiet place to walk or relax.
  • Breathing deeply. Pausing on occasion to take deep breaths is an excellent relaxation method and can help give your brain a much-needed break.
  • Eliminating background distractions. Background noise is one of the biggest obstacles to hearing effectively. Try turning off the television or music or moving to a quieter place if there are background noises you cannot control.
  • Taking a quick nap. If the other methods are ineffective, try taking a brief 20-30 minute nap. You'd be surprised at what a difference this can make; a rested brain and body go hand-in-hand.

If you’ve been feeling more tired than usual, it’s worth checking your hearing to see if the culprit could be hearing loss. Contact Silicon Valley Hearing today and set up a test. 

Marni Novick, Audiologist in Los Gatos, CA

Dr. Marni Novick

Founder & Audiologist

Marni Novick, AuD, is founder of Silicon Valley Hearing, Inc., which opened its doors in 2014, with the promise of delivering honest and affordable hearing health care, along with exceptional customer service to her valued patients.

About Dr. Novick