Have you felt overly tired lately? It might not be the shorter daylight hours or busy holiday season that are to blame. Your fatigued feeling might be due to hearing loss.
Now, you might be skeptical at first that hearing loss could cause real fatigue. After all, isn’t hearing something you do automatically and constantly, like breathing or blinking? It is true that you probably do not have to consciously tell your brain to hear things, but that does not mean that hearing is not tiring.
Think of a time when you were in a very noisy environment, such as a loud sporting event or a busy restaurant during the dinner rush. When the noise was at its loudest, were you able to easily hear the conversation with your friends and family? Did you feel like you needed to strain to be able to hear them properly? Or if the environment was too loud, did you ever simply give up on trying to follow the conversation? All of this demonstrates the mental strain (or cognitive load, as they call it in the medical field) that accompanies hearing.
If you have normal hearing, you may only notice the cognitive load of hearing in noisy conditions, like those mentioned above. You may also feel the strain when trying very hard to hear a noise, such as listening for disturbances in a quiet home at night or waiting to hear a certain animal call in nature. These circumstances make you realize that hearing does require exertion.
For people with hearing loss, however, many more environments and situations require careful attention and effort. The more time you spend straining to hear, and the more difficult it is to understand, the greater the cognitive load. This can lead to what is known as “ear fatigue,” when your brain becomes tired of trying to hear and make sense of what you hear. And while the term “ear fatigue” may indicate that only your ears might feel tired, in reality, it can lead to an overall feeling of exhaustion.
Because of the fatigue associated with hearing loss, many people with hearing loss begin to avoid social situations or noisy places that could increase their cognitive load and cause ear fatigue. Unfortunately, this strategy can backfire. When you avoid sounds, your auditory nerve does not have to work as hard. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of dementia. The auditory nerve needs to be stimulated.
So, if you have been feeling overly tired lately, do not ignore it or chalk it up to a simple need for more rest and relaxation. You might be experiencing a symptom of hearing loss. If you have noticed that you no longer hear sounds that were once common to you, if you need to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, or if you frequently ask people to repeat themselves, you may be experiencing hearing loss.
The solution is simple: call your hearing healthcare professional and schedule a hearing assessment. The noninvasive hearing test can help you know whether hearing loss is to blame for your fatigue and other symptoms. We invite you to contact our practice today to learn more about ear fatigue and to schedule your hearing test.