Audiologists often see patients who say that struggling to hear on a daily basis literally wears them out. Now a new study recently published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, suggests people with hearing loss aren’t just imagining it. They are nearly twice as likely to experience daily fatigue compared to those with normal hearing, even after adjusting for demographics, lifestyle factors, and comorbidities.
This new research is thought to be the first national study to establish a connection between the effort expended by individuals with hearing loss to process sounds and its long-term impact on their overall health.
This study was conducted by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and looked at data from the 2015-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that included 3,031 nationally representative participants aged 40 and above. Among the respondents, 2,318 (76%) had normal hearing, while 713 (24%) had hearing loss.
A total of 12.7% of respondents with hearing loss reported feeling fatigued nearly every day over two weeks, whereas only 7% of adults with normal hearing reported the same level of fatigue. The data was adjusted for factors including age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, smoking, drinking, occupational and off-work noise exposure, and body mass index in one model, and comorbidities and depressive symptoms in a second model.
This new research highlights the importance of addressing hearing loss as an integral part of overall health management. The study’s authors say more research is necessary to explore fatigue’s multidimensional aspects and how hearing loss may contribute to different types of physical and mental fatigue. Additionally, they say understanding how hearing loss impacts other health outcomes is crucial for comprehensive care and intervention strategies.
In the meantime, it’s important that individuals who are experiencing difficulty hearing have their hearing evaluated by a doctoral level audiologist.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may want to have your hearing evaluated.
- Do you experience ringing or hear noises in your ears?
- Does one of your ears hear much more clearly than the other?
- Do you have difficulty following conversations in a noisy restaurant or crowded room?
- Do you feel that people mumble or fail to speak clearly?
- Do you have difficulty listening to the TV or radio?
- Do you find it difficult to understand the speaker at a public meeting or religious service?
- Does your difficulty hearing interfere with your personal, family or social life?
If a comprehensive hearing evaluation determines that you have hearing loss, there are a number of state-of-the-art prescription hearing aids that may be helpful in treating hearing loss. Some of the newest features in these devices include directional microphones, Bluetooth connectivity and artificial intelligence, among others.
There are even accessories for hearing aids that can improve your hearing when communicating with family and friends in complex environments where there is background noise or you cannot clearly see the speaker’s face.
These accessories, such as a remote mic, or spouse mic, stream your conversation partner’s voice directly to your hearing aids, making the signal of interest louder than the background noise in the room.
Additionally, there are television devices that stream the sounds from your television directly to your aids, allowing you to control your TV listening volume while others in the room can control the sound from the TV for their preference.