I'm too tired for this
In my experience, one of the most common feelings people seem to have about their hearing loss is that it is exhausting.
This topic came up a lot when I was interviewing young people with hearing loss for my undergraduate honors thesis. In any interaction with other people, Sam* told me that he had to “focus extra hard to be able to understand what people are saying.” Similarly, Catherine said that she felt an incredible “strain” when talking to people because she “had to really pay attention” and “concentrate much harder” in order to hear them, which made it “kind of exhausting to go through the day.” Ben put it really clearly when he said:
At the end of the day, you feel exhausted from having to sort of focus all the time and extract every little bit that you can based on whatever little context you get from the conversation.
As these participants explained, hearing loss required them to bring extra focus and energy into any interaction that required listening. In the process, they ended up exhausted.
Researchers have looked into this connection and find that the difficult listening demands placed on a person throughout the day can lead to fatigue and stress. Another paper breaks down the different dimensions that can be used to describe fatigue. I have organized the dimensions the authors describe below:
The authors also talk about the consequences of fatigue. They cite studies that show that fatigue is associated with negative physical, social, and psychological outcomes like depression, feelings of loneliness, and less socializing with family and friends. Fatigue is also associated with difficulties thinking clearly or efficiently, maintaining attention, and remembering. There are also serious workplace issues, including missing work and being more prone to accidents or errors.
Fatigue is a difficult topic to study because it is hard to measure, so more research is needed to better understand the relationship between hearing loss and fatigue.
*Note: I used pseudonyms in my thesis to keep my participants' identities confidential and have changed their names again here to further ensure confidentiality.
Citations for the links:
Bess FH and Hornsby BWY. Commentary: Listening Can Be Exhausting-Fatigue in Children and Adults with Hearing Loss. Ear and Hearing. 2014; 25(6): 592-599.
Hornsby BWY, Naylor G, and Bess FH. A Taxonomy of Fatigue Concepts and Their Relation to Hearing Loss. Ear and Hearing. 2016; 37: 136S-144S.