Hearing Loss & Fatigue

Hearing Loss & Fatigue

If you have realized you have hearing loss, then you might be familiar with the following scenario. When you arrive at a social gathering with lots of people talking at once you feel upbeat and full of energy. 

Without hesitation you jump into conversation with one of the people at this event and start to catch up on what’s happened since you last saw one another. When they start talking, you already know you’re in deep water. Rather than deciperhable sentences and phrases, you hear fragments of sound. If you watch closely enough, you can use their expressions and mouth movements to fill in some of the gaps in meaning, but you remain vaguely confused throughout the conversation. 

Once or twice you nod your head as if you understand what’s going on, but in reality you only have a general sense. After a short time trying to make this situation work without betraying your lack of understanding, you decide to cut off the conversation abruptly. 

As you walk away, you already feel exhausted and want to go home. The prospect of repeating this encounter with everyone in the room for the entire evening feels overwhelming. Rather than continue the process, you might even leave early, exhausted. 

How Hearing Loss Interferes with Communication

If this resonates with your experience, you aren’t alone. Many people experience fatigue from hearing loss, particularly when they are expected to communicate in a noisy environment. Why is this experience so exhausting? There are several ways to understand this exhaustion. 

At the surface, social anxiety can accompany hearing loss, making your interactions feel uncomfortable and even awkward at times. At a slightly deeper level, your conscious mind is trying to work on overdrive to make sense of the conversation, actively working out the puzzles you face. Anyone who speaks another language at a novice level will recognize this experience when a native speaker quickly delivers a chain of words that are vaguely recognizable. 

However, at an even deeper level, your mind is working out the puzzles of meaning beneath your conscious mind. Let’s explore the levels at which your mind becomes exhausted, potentially leading to more serious mental and physical health effects. 

Cognitive Fatigue

When you are engaged in a conversation with only a fragment of the necessary sounds to understand, you might feel confused in your conscious mind. However, the inner workings of your brain are also trying to complete a complicated puzzle of meaning, and several parts of your mind are working on overdrive. First, the temporal lobe is where you receive information from the inner era. This region of the brain spans both sides of your head and is located behind your ears. The primary auditory cortex is the home for speech processing, housed in this region of the brain, and it can become overworked when there is insufficient data to process from the ears. 

When the primary auditory cortex does not have what it needs to complete the process of understanding speech, Wernicke’s area is engaged. This region of the temporal lobe is located on the left side of the brain and is tasked with comprehending the speech that is processed in the auditory cortex. This region additionally faces a challenge of making meaningful units arise from a jumble of syllables, and it can become taxed by the lack of useful pieces. 

Finally, Broca’s area is located in the lower portion of the left frontal lobe of the brain, and it is responsible for producing speech. Remarkably, this region of the brain can become overworked when it is faced with an incomplete puzzle, as well. Not only are you expected to understand what you hear, but you are also challenged to respond in kind, and this portion of the brain simply does not know what to say in return to a jumble of sound. At least these three portions of the brain are overworked in the process of communication with hearing loss, leading to profound fatigue at the level of cognition. 

The good news is that a person with hearing loss does not need to continue with this social, mental, and cognitive exhaustion. With hearing aids in place, you can relieve the tension caused by deep misunderstanding, filling in the gaps in hearing that start a domino rally of fatigue. If you have untreated hearing loss, why not contact us today to schedule a hearing test?