It is easy to take our senses, like hearing, for granted – but over one-third of people over 65 experience some degree of hearing loss, either due to degenerative effects of aging or accumulative exposure to loud noises.
When we think about the consequences of hearing loss, we might immediately think about how it would make communication with family and friends more difficult, or how we would miss the sounds of music in songs and films. But the detrimental effects of hearing loss go beyond reduced access to sounds.
In a review published in Ear and Hearing, researchers investigated an understudied consequence of hearing loss: fatigue. Certainly, one could imagine that the constant effort of trying to understand what others are saying may eventually take a toll on our brains.
After scouring through studies on hearing loss and fatigue, researchers found overwhelming evidence that hearing loss does, in fact, result in increased fatigue. There is also some evidence that obtaining a hearing device – such as a hearing aid or a cochlear implant – may relieve some of this fatigue, but researchers are quick to point out that more research on this topic is needed.
One limitation of current studies is that what we know today about this topic is based on subjective measures, such as questionnaires, and that each person might experience or describe fatigue differently. Future research could integrate more objective measures, such as behavioral or physiological measures, to provide stronger evidence about the link between hearing loss and fatigue. Despite these limitations, the current review is important for addressing the needs of people with hearing loss and for promoting continued research on this topic.