If you find yourself more tired than usual, it could be because of hearing loss. Impairment to hearing can happen to anyone and often happens very gradually. This means that changes to your ability to hear could be missed or overlooked. One of the many symptoms of hearing loss is fatigue. The sense of hearing is more than simply hearing sound. It also involves interpreting and making meaning of sound. This greatly impacts your ability to understand and fully navigate everything around you. If you are experiencing hearing loss, your capacity to do this is weakened.
Hearing requires the movement of sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. In the inner ear, sound waves are translated to neural signals for the brain to interpret. When a person is experiencing hearing loss, the brain is forced to work overtime to try to understand the information it is receiving from the inner ear. Just how much energy is needed to hear?
How does hearing work?
The sense of hearing is a dynamic process that involves the full use of our ears, which are sensitive and intricate organs. The ear can be divided into three parts:
- Outer Ear: this is the part o the ear that is most visible (also called the auricle or pinna). Its primary function is to gather as many sound waves from the environment as possible. This sound then travels down the ear canal and lands on the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin membrane that connects the middle and inner ear. Sound collected by the outer ear cause the eardrum to move or vibrate.
- Middle Ear: the middle ear is behind the eardrum and is comprised of three bones (also called the auditory ossicles and are some of the smallest bones in the human body), which work to amplify sound. The moving eardrum causes these bones to vibrate, moving the sound further into the ear.
- Inner Ear: the cochlear is a spiral structure located in the temporal bone of the inner ear and is filled with liquid and a membrane that is covered with hair cells. It plays a critical role in the sense of hearing because it translates the sound waves to neural signals interpreted by the brain. The vibration of the bones in the middle ear, motion the fluid in the cochlear. The movement of this fluid and the hair cells send electric signals to the hearing nerve in the brain. This then allows the brain to interpret these electric impulses as sound.
This complex process allows us to receive sound and attach meaning to that sound. If there is any damage or injury to one of these delicate bones and/or structures, the brain expends more energy trying to understand incoming auditory information. This can often lead to stress and exhaustion.
As described above, hearing requires lots of energy! Hearing loss often causes people to work harder in an attempt to fully hear. This can look like:
- Reading mouths (rather than making eye contact) to hear distinct words
- Hearing partial sentences and trying to make sense of them
- Concentrating and being attentive for long periods of time
- Serious focus on how to respond to sentences and conversations that you have only partially heard
- Frequently asking others to speak loudly, slowly, or clearly
- Needing others to repeat what they have just said to you
- Having to listen to any speech more than one time
- Difficulty following conversations with multiple people or in places with background noise
Trying to process partial information and make meaning out of it is demands so much more energy and can lead to exhaustion and frustration. As you expend more and more energy trying to hear, your ability to do other things (such as fulfilling work responsibilities or home tasks) can be impacted. You may even find yourself wanting to engage less, avoiding social gatherings, and noisy environments. This can really impact your overall mental and emotional health.
Atlanta Hearing Doctor
Hearing loss is treatable! The most common way is hearing aids, which can effectively provide you with better hearing. The best way to find out if you are experiencing hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor for a hearing assessment.