Hearing Loss & Fatigue

Hearing Loss & Fatigue

Have you ever left a social event feeling exhausted? If you are an introvert, this is one of the defining features that allows you to understand your personality. Although you might not necessarily avoid social situations or feel bothered by them, they can tend to sap your energy. When you get home from a party you might want to go immediately to bed. Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to feel energized by social events, even finding it difficult to fall asleep after an event. 

If this dynamic seems familiar to you, imagine the situation of a person with hearing loss. Social events ranging from big to small can cause frustration, confusion, and feelings of isolation such that they leave you feeling exhausted. One of the problems with hearing-related fatigue is that the social events don’t need to be parties or gatherings. Even trying to follow a one-on-one conversation can cause exhaustion, as can a task as simple as listening to the television. If you can’t make out what people are saying, then you might feel very tired at the end of trying to engage with any audio stimulus. 

Although this experience is quite common, you might wonder what’s happening behind the scenes. Let’s take a look at what happens to a person who has hearing loss and is struggling to understand. This experience can lead to subjective, social, and cognitive fatigue that remains with a person throughout the day.

Experiences of Fatigue

For a person with hearing loss at a social event, the feeling of fatigue can be profound on a subjective level. While trying to make sense of the conversations at the event, your mind might be consciously scrambling to understand what is going on. When you hear only fragments of sound, it is possible for those snippets to feel like a jigsaw puzzle that is missing pieces. The confusion can even make you feel like you want to go home from the event early due to exhaustion and fatigue. 

In addition to this subjective experience of fatigue, you might find social exhaustion, as well. When you are trying to read the cues from others for an extended period of time, the unexpected nature of conversation can lead to mistrust and second guessing. Each attempt to read a facial expression or to fill in context clues comes to your mind as a social puzzle. Your understanding of your relationships with others can even come into question, and you might experience newfound social anxiety in these events. 

Beyond the subjective and social dimensions of fatigue accompanying hearing loss, there is also a very real experience of cognitive fatigue. At least three parts of your brain are challenged beyond their capacity when you have hearing loss. 

In the first place, the primary auditory cortex in the temporal lobe is responsible for transmitting audio signals gathered in the ears and sending them along to other parts of the brain for speech and language comprehension. Without enough to work with, this part of the brain spanning from ear to ear on both sides of the head can be grasping at audio information that is not there. 

In addition, Wernicke’s area in the left frontal lobe is responsible for speech comprehension, and it tends to be vastly overloaded for someone who has hearing loss. Finally, Broca’s area in the lower portion of the left frontal lobe is responsible for generating your own speech. This part of the brain can be overloaded, as well, particularly when you are scrambling to say something that might be appropriate even when you can’t understand what another person is saying. By attempting to offer vague yet appropriate responses, your Broca’s area can become fatigued, as well. 

As you can see the layers of fatigue for a person with hearing loss can stretch deep below the surface of the mind into the complex inner workings of the brain, but the good news is that you don’t have to remain in a state of confusion and exhaustion. When you get treatment for hearing loss, the pressure you experience in conversations can be alleviated, and the feeling of relief extends beyond your conversations and into the rest of conscious life. 

If you are ready to experience the joys of hearing clearly, contact us today! We provide comprehensive hearing health services, from hearing testing to expert hearing aid fittings.