Hearing & Balance Doctors

Can Hearing Loss Make You Tired?

When was the last time you were really tired? And not just a little sleepy but truly exhausted.

Maybe you just ran the St. George Marathon, or perhaps you had been feeling the emotional exhaustion of worrying about a loved one.

Whatever the cause, when you were exhausted, did it affect your ability to function in other aspects of your life? Did you find yourself forgetful or “loopy” or “out of it”?

Most of us inherently understand that when we are very tired, we are not functioning at our best.

Over the course of the last decade, interesting research has emerged demonstrating that having a hearing loss can be hard work.

Cognitive Load

When a person struggles to hear, or understand, that person has to work harder to try to follow a conversation. It takes significant cognitive effort simply to listen.

Over the course of an entire day, it takes its toll. It can literally be exhausting. Hearing scientists call this the effects of an increased cognitive load.

Just this last year, two studies helped to demonstrate the relationship between an increased cognitive load and hearing loss.

One study, titled “Self-Reported Listening-Related Effort and Fatigue in Hearing Impaired Adults” by Alhanbali, Dawes, Lloyd, and Munro in Ear and Hearing looked at the self-reported listening effort and fatigue in people with a hearing loss and compared them to normal hearing individuals.

They found that people with a hearing loss report significantly higher levels of listening effort and fatigue in their lives.

Another study, also published in Ear and Hearing last year, by Hornsby and Kipp (“Subjective Ratings of Fatigue and Vigor in Adults with Hearing Loss are Driven by Perceived Hearing Difficulties, Not Degree of Hearing Loss”) was interesting in that the researchers found that adults with a hearing loss were definitely more likely to experience severe fatigue and lack of energy; however, the degree of fatigue was unrelated to the degree of hearing loss.

In other words, even a mild hearing loss could cause the same amount of fatigue as a severe hearing loss. They also found that there was a strong association between measures of fatigue and the social and emotional consequences of hearing loss.

Isolation

Social and emotional consequences of hearing loss are very real and well documented. Individuals with a hearing loss often feel isolated and lonely and are at a high risk for depression.

Recent studies have also shown that hearing loss can affect work performance – suggesting that after a long workday, individuals with a hearing loss are more tired and have a higher need for recovery.

The good news is that help is available.

Recent studies have shown that hearing aids are effective in reducing cognitive load and relieving the fatigue caused by hearing loss.

A recent example is an article titled “The Effects of Hearing Aid Directional Microphone and Noise Reduction Processing on Listening Effort in Older Adults with Hearing Loss” written by Desjardins and published in The Journal of the American Academy of Audiology.

This study revealed that directional microphones (found in most modern hearing aids) significantly reduced listening effort in older adults. The effect was most pronounced in background noise.

Hearing and Balance Doctors Can Help You

Hearing loss can have surprising consequences outside simply struggling to hear a loved one. It can be exhausting. But it can also be helped.

Hearing aids can help reduce fatigue by relieving the increased cognitive load that individuals with a hearing loss bear. Come see us today at Hearing & Balance Doctors and let us help you find some rest.

 

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Dr. Ryan Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker joined Hearing & Balance Doctors of Utah in 2009. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in 2005 with his Bachelors of Science in Audiology and Speech Pathology. He then received his Doctor of Audiology from the University of Arizona where he minored in Cognitive Neuroscience (the study of how people perceive sound). While at the University of Arizona, he specialized in evoked potentials, specifically researching Cortical Auditory Evoked Potentials and the Acoustic Change Complex. He gained clinical experience at Tucson Ear, Nose, and Throat; St. Joseph’s Hospital Balance Center; Arizona Hearing Specialists; and the Center for Hearing Impaired Children. Dr. Whitaker was raised in Orem, Utah with three older sisters and a younger brother (who is also an audiologist). His grandfather was a cartoonist for the Walt Disney Studios where he drew Donald Duck and many characters in Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland before starting the BYU Motion Picture Studio. Dr. Whitaker is married and has three sons. He is passionate about college football and also enjoys hiking in Southern Utah, reading, and traveling. He has traveled extensively through South Asia including Thailand, India, Nepal, and a church mission to the Philippines.

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