Fatigue and Hearing Loss

Fatigue and Hearing Loss

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

If you have been feeling more tired than usual lately and experience 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 in order 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 properly; 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 sort of physical activity.

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, greatly reducing listening fatigue; this should translate to less physical tiredness and a boost in energy.

Other tips for reducing listening fatigue include:
  • Taking a short break from noise, even if only 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 a rested body go hand-in-hand.

Source: Alhanbali, S., et al. (2017) Self-reported listening-related effort and fatigue in hearing-impaired adults. Ear and Hearing: The Official Journal of the American Auditory Society (38)1: 39-48.

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