Listening-related fatigue, well-being and the importance of daily-life activity

Listening-related fatigue impacts well-being, reports Phonak’s Audiology Blog. When hearing loss and daily activity are added to the mix, it can contribute to a range of problems in everyday life that can reduce a person’s well-being — happiness, comfort, health and self-worth.

Posted Monday April 25, 2022

Everyone experiences listening-related fatigue. Imagine a long meeting when your attention wanders — this is listening-related fatigue. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that the effort to listen outweighs the rewards.

When hearing loss is added into this picture, the balance of effort vs reward is tipped towards exhaustion, increasing a person’s susceptibility to severe listening-related fatigue and, unsurprisingly, negatively impacts on well-being.

However, the real-life impact on a person’s well-being is a complex mixture that also includes lifestyle, for example, one person with hearing loss might work full-time and have an active social life, the other might spend all of their time in quiet situations at home. So, what impact does hearing loss have on well-being when considered together with the role of activity and its impact on listening-related fatigue?

Social activity

Research shows that for the elderly in particular, hearing loss is linked to reduced social activity as it makes social situations more challenging and fatiguing, and less enjoyable. On the other hand, hearing device use is linked to increased social activity, so if the social activity is enjoyed, fatigue should lessen, and well-being should improve.

Work activity

The effect of hearing loss on fatigue creates a link between hearing loss and lack of work. The pressures of unemployment, such as job seeking, have been shown to increase fatigue so people with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed.

Cochlear implants seem to help people get jobs, but the evidence for hearing aids is less clear. However, a positive change in employment status undoubtedly improves well-being, and on-the-job fatigue is seen as an improvement on fatigue caused by job-seeking.

Physical activity

Physical activity has no effect on listening-related fatigue, but reduced physical activity increases feelings of general fatigue. Both fatigue and inactivity negatively impact well-being, so there could be an additive effect when someone has hearing loss.

So what does this mean?

It is a complex picture! An individual’s hearing ability can directly influence their feelings of fatigue, their daily-life activity and their well-being. However, listening-related fatigue, activity and well-being are interlinked; each impacting on the other.

For a detailed insight into the relationships between listening-related fatigue, well-being and daily-life activity for people with hearing loss, you can read Dr Jack A. Holman’s full article.

You can also read other articles dedicated to well-being topics in the IJA special supplement.

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