When we think of hearing loss, we tend to think about how we have to turn up the volume on our devices, or how it affects communication with our friends and family. Untreated hearing loss has long been linked to a range of health problems, as revealed by medical studies concerning areas such as dementia, balance, heart disease, and depression.
As the third most common medical condition, hearing loss affects 48 million Americans, and one in three people over the age of 60. Approximately 60% of the workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss. While we tend to think of hearing loss affecting many circumstances external to us, it is also important to take a look inward. In the past few years, new light has been shed on how hearing loss affects our energy levels and our emotional well-being. A series of studies have linked untreated hearing loss to fatigue, including how hearing loss may affect the daily activities of people who are experiencing changes in their hearing – but have yet to seek treatment.
Here we take a look at some of these studies and provide a few tips on self-care to prevent hearing loss fatigue.
In a study published in Ear and Hearing in August 2014, researchers from Vanderbilt University found that people who experience hearing loss are more likely to suffer from severe fatigue and feelings of low energy. The study tracked 149 participants who were in the process of seeking consultation for their hearing loss. Though the degrees of hearing loss varied among participants, researchers found that all participants reported low energy, with double the frequency of severe fatigue compared to the general population. Based on these results, researchers concluded that the link between hearing loss and fatigue deserved further study.
Similarly, in a number of studies from Johns Hopkins University, researchers have discovered links between untreated hearing loss and dementia. With untreated hearing loss, the brain struggles with a heavier cognitive load, as it strains to make sense of muddled auditory. In other words, when hearing loss is left untreated, the brain does not register the full spectrum of sounds as it does with normal hearing.
Additionally, our balance system closely linked to our auditory system. Our balance system helps our bodies navigate movement and also situate us in the spatial context of our environment. With untreated hearing loss, unclear sound signals could interfere with how we localize sounds in our environment. As a result, studies have linked a higher rate of falls and hospitalizations to people who have untreated hearing loss.
With untreated hearing loss, it is possible that these processes struggle to keep our bodies functioning at the level they once did with normal hearing. Perhaps the added strain to our muscular and neural systems contributes to this severe fatigue reported by individuals consulting on their hearing loss.
With or without hearing aids, people with hearing loss may find certain environments to be overwhelming – public venues, noisy restaurants, etc. If you experience untreated hearing loss, you may find that background noise or multiple speakers in conversation make it difficult for you to focus on sounds. Over time, this may become exhausting. For people who do treat hearing loss with hearing aids, overwhelming experiences may occur after longer periods of time in these environments.
It’s important to build in quiet time during your day, whether it’s a few minutes with your office door closed or an afternoon meditation practice between activities. Some people prefer to unwind with yoga or sitting quietly with a book. Whatever the case, it’s good to give yourself a break to recharge.
Statistics show people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing until they decide to seek treatment. In addition to fatigue and exhaustion as explored above, the physical and emotional effects of untreated hearing loss have adverse effects on a person’s daily life, interpersonal relationships, and earning power. Even the most active individuals may find themselves less interested in social events, interacting with friends and family, and due to stress and anxiety, more prone to social isolation. As a result, hearing loss has been linked to depression as well.
Taking a hearing test provides you with valuable information on your current hearing abilities. If a hearing loss is detected, we will work with you to find a solution tailored to meet your needs. With the use of hearing aids, you will regain access to the sounds around you, thus relieving your brain from the strain and struggle to hear. Over time, as you grow used to hearing aids, your brain will not have to work as hard to hear every day sounds.
To schedule a hearing test and consultation, contact us at Puget Sound Hearing Aids and Audiology