Is there a Link Between Hearing Loss & Fatigue? 

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Social situations and group conversations can be exhausting for anyone – p. Particularly those who are introverted or shy can feel depleted after a social event or party. Those gatherings require a person to engage with many different people in a row, gathering information from each about their expectations, beliefs, and dispositions. That extended process of learning from others’ social cues and responding in kind can be quite tiring for a person who tends to prefer time alone, at home, or in smaller groups.

Although anyone can feel fatigued after a social event, those who have untreated hearing loss tend to have a much more difficult time with fatigue after that encounter. The struggle to gather verbal information and translate that into meaningful thought can become as a tiring process. Even those who are normally extroverted and outgoing can feel social exhaustion when they have untreated hearing loss.

Let’s take a moment to imagine some situations that can cause fatigue for a person with hearing loss. If you have noticed that your loved one is demonstrating fatigue after social events, you might take this observation as an opportunity to encourage a hearing test.

Social Gatherings and Fatigue

When we gather together in a social group for a party or other event, our sensory systems and cognitive abilities are engaged in a heightened state of awareness. We use our ears, eyes, and other sensory systems to gather as much information as possible about others.

When it comes to hearing, we want to hear not only what others they have to say but also the connotation of that speech and the body language that helps us understand the complexity of meaning. This gathering process engages many different parts of our brains in a quick process of information assessment, drawing connections between different elements to guess at the general meaning. We enter a process of guessing and checking our assumptions about the meaning of these conversations, noticing when we miscommunicate and returning to take a better guess at what others mean. As you can imagine, this process can be exhausting for anyone in a social setting where many people are communicating one after another.

Hearing Loss and Communication Exhaustion

Although the process of group communication can cause fatigue for anyone, those who have untreated hearing loss face a much greater challenge. Rather than simply pulling together sounds and other sensory stimuli into something meaningful, those who have an untreated hearing loss only receive fragments of sound. Those fragments are akin to a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces. The brain needs to scramble to put together a good guess at the intended meaning of those sounds, and that cognitive process can cause serious fatigue.

Particularly in a social setting where many people are talking at once and expecting prompt responses, those with hearing loss can become so fatigued that they disengage altogether. Some people with untreated hearing loss mentally disengage from the conversation, zoning out in an attempt to get a mental break. Others start to avoid social settings altogethermore generally. When they experience such fatigue in social settings, it can feel as if the event is not worth it. Parties are less enjoyable when they cause this degree of exhaustion, and even work events can become unmanageable.

Hearing Wellness Solutions is Here to Help

If you have noticed a loved one, friend, or family member who seems to be quite fatigued after a social gathering, you might take that observation as an opportunity to open up a conversation. Simply asking if they are feeling especially tired after these events is a great way to open the door for disclosure of hearing loss. If your loved one is not ready to admit to hearing loss causing that fatigue, then you can simply encourage a hearing test instead.

If you ask your loved one to get a hearing test, you can join along in the process of scheduling and attending that appointment. Even those who are not ready to admit to hearing loss can benefit from a baseline assessment of hearing ability. If another issue is to blame for feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, then this exam can be an opportunity to explore other possible underlying health issues that are the cause.

Kenneth H. Wood, BC-HIS

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