Hearing Loss as an Overlooked Cause of Fatigue

Tired? It could have something to do with your hearing. According to research by the Better Hearing Institute, the cost of untreated hearing loss to society amounts to 56 billion dollars per year in the U.S. and 92 billion euros in Europe, mainly due to lost productivity at work. Much of the lost productivity is due to fatigue caused by coping with hearing loss.

A tired young man rubbing his eye

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How Hearing Aids Can Improve Your Health

Studies have shown that people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids experience more sadness, fear, and anxiety than hearing aid users. They reduce their social activities, become emotionally unstable and have trouble concentrating.

Hearing aid usage has been shown to improve quality of life in multiple ways. Relationships with family members become easier and self-confidence increases due to improved feelings of safety, security, and independence.

People who suddenly lose most or all of their hearing commonly go through the five stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of clinical depression. When dealing with hearing loss, one must keep in mind that it's not just a single isolated event. There may be depression associated with the acceptance of the initial hearing loss but there are also additional daily reminders that may bring up those feelings of loss and disappointment.

By losing the ability to hear normal background sounds can lead to an ongoing sense of isolation that is inherently depressing.

For people with hearing loss, the workplace can mean a lot more cognitive effort just to keep up.

Every day there is a normal flow of interactions. The extra effort required to comprehend speech in noise when your normal mechanisms for filtering out background sounds are impaired can put an overload on the brain that makes it harder to perform other mental tasks at the same time. The result can be a poorer performance on work-related tasks and extra work keeping up with others that if your brain didn't have to go through extra cycles trying to comprehend and communicate.

The stress and anxiety from coping with hearing loss in everyday situations can also wear you down. When you are in a conversation but cannot keep up, especially in business, missing out on the information you need can be extremely threatening.

When this kind of anxiety extends to other situations, a person with hearing loss end up in an extended state of hyper-vigilance, or what psychologists call the "fight or flight" syndrome. One of our natural defense mechanisms is the rapid production of adrenaline when we are threatened. The adrenaline gives us extra energy and alertness, providing us with the tools to either confront or avoid a predator. Constant overproduction of this powerful stimulant can wreak havoc upon the nervous system. Burnout and complete exhaustion are the natural consequence.

In addition, to properly fit hearing aids, meditation and breathing disciplines have been shown to provide real health benefits, relieving stress and restoring energy. Yoga is an excellent practice to reduce stress, improve respiration, and increase energy and vitality.

Regular aerobic exercise can relieve stress and fight depression, in part through releasing endorphins in the bloodstream, which contribute to a general sense of well-being.

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Article Sources
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  • Copithorne, D (2006). The Fatigue Factor: How I Learned to Love Power Naps, Meditation, and Other Tricks to Cope With Hearing-Loss Exhaustion. Healthy Hearing.

  •  Hornsby, B.W.Y. (2013). The Effects of Hearing Aid Use on Listening Effort and Mental Fatigue Associated with Sustained Speech Processing Demands. Ear and Hearing,