Dealing with hearing loss can make everyday tasks challenging and enjoyable situations frustrating. Did you also know it can be simply exhausting? Hearing loss taxes your body in ways most people don’t recognize. In fact, many people with hearing loss don’t connect it with feelings of fatigue. However, part of managing fatigue is recognizing how hearing loss can contribute to it and taking breaks strategically to let your hearing rest.
Why Is Hearing Loss Tiring?
Hearing seems so “weightless” it is hard to imagine that the act of sensing sound could be exhausting, and yet, for people with hearing loss, hearing takes intense work.
Our sense of hearing occurs when small sensory cells in the inner ear pick up sound waves vibrating the air and send signals to the brain to be interpreted. Most hearing loss is based in permanent damage to the sensory cells (known as “hair cells). Damaged hair cells mean less information about incoming sounds is perceived and transmitted to the brain, meaning the brain has to interpret sounds that may be lacking in detail.
Like solving a crossword puzzle without all the clues, the mind has to “fill in” the blank spots left by hearing loss. This process takes longer, is less accurate and requires more mental energy than normal hearing. Hearing loss places a burden on our mental processing, especially in conversations where we are required to rapidly follow the flow of speech from multiple participants.
Cognitive Strain and Hearing Loss
The stress hearing loss puts on your brain is called “cognitive strain” and it can be truly exhausting. Our brain acts like a central computer to our body in many ways, coordinating multiple tasks and bodily functions simultaneously, allowing us to move through the world. When our hearing demands more energy, however, it diverts mental focus from other activities.
This is a large part of why hearing loss is also linked to an increased risk of falling accidents: cognitive energy that is usually used for our balance and coordination is diverted to assist with hearing comprehension, making us more prone to misjudge our motions and obstacles in our path. In such simple ways, hearing loss ends up taxing your mind and body, producing fatigue.
Part of reducing fatigue is recognizing how your hearing loss can tire you and adapting your schedule accordingly. In your daily life, space out intensely verbal and conversational situations and put quiet activities or downtime between them. Giving your hearing and your cognition needed periods to “recharge” your concentration and energy will help you sustain your energy throughout the day. Similarly, buffer big social events with quiet time before and after. For many people, carving space for quiet time helps them balance their energy rather than wearing themselves out.
Downtime and quiet activities can simply be activities that don’t require any listening, such as writing, reading or preparing food. Deeper relaxation like meditation, mindfulness or napping can deliver a deeper recharge. It also helps to add more quiet time into the physical activities in your life. Try reducing the hours in your life where listening is required of you, such as switching your exercise soundtrack to instrumental or ambient sounds, or reading the news instead of listening to it.
Reducing the Impact of Hearing Loss
Another way to alleviate cognitive strain is by treating your hearing loss with hearing aids. Hearing aids can deliver increased comprehension, clarity and a fuller range of hearing for people with nearly every degree of hearing loss. Using hearing aids can greatly improve your quality of life and that includes relieving some of the mental strain that can produce fatigue.
Modern hearing aids also boast features like streaming audio from smartphones and other digital devices directly to your hearing aids. This focused sound delivery makes concentration and comprehension more direct and clear, reducing strain on your cognitive processes.
The best way to find the right hearing aids for your hearing is through your audiologist or hearing specialist. Hearing aids aren’t one-size-fits-all, and our team will match your hearing aids to your lifestyle needs and custom program your devices to best suit your hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!