A research letter published this week in JAMA Otolaryngology online delves into the relationship between fatigue and hearing loss. Conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the study utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to shed light on a potential connection between hearing loss and increased fatigue in adults. Fatigue, characterized by persistent feelings of tiredness and exhaustion, has long been associated with impaired cognitive function, diminished psychosocial well-being, and an overall decline in quality of life.
By investigating the association between hearing loss and fatigue, the study aimed to provide valuable insights into managing daily functioning and understanding the potential downstream health outcomes for individuals experiencing hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Fatigue
The study analyzed data from two survey cycles of NHANES, specifically focusing on participants aged 40 years and older to examine age-related hearing loss. Out of the 3,031 individuals included in the study, 76% had normal hearing, while 24% experienced hearing loss.
By utilizing a self-reported question that gauged fatigue levels over the past two weeks, the researchers assessed the participants’ subjective experiences of feeling tired or having little energy. Additionally, the researchers calculated the better-ear 4-frequency pure-tone average (PTA) by considering audiometric hearing thresholds at different frequencies.
The findings revealed a clear association between hearing loss and increased frequency of fatigue. Participants with hearing loss were more likely to report experiencing fatigue for more than half the days or nearly every day, compared to those with normal hearing.
The findings revealed that individuals with hearing loss were more likely to experience fatigue on most days or nearly every day. As the severity of hearing loss increased, so did the likelihood of feeling fatigued
This correlation remained significant even after adjusting for various factors such as age, sex, education, lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking), noise exposure, and body mass index.
Implications for Future Research and Management Strategies
While the study identified a strong link between hearing loss and fatigue, further investigation is necessary to gain a comprehensive understanding of the relationship.
The current body of literature on the topic is limited and varied, primarily consisting of studies conducted in clinical settings that may have overrepresented patients experiencing hearing loss-related fatigue. Therefore, this population-based study provides valuable evidence from a nationally representative sample, highlighting the need for future research.
According to the authors, future studies should consider assessing fatigue in various dimensions to better comprehend how hearing loss may contribute to both physical and mental fatigue. Additionally, more research is needed to investigate the effects of hearing aids and rehabilitation strategies on reducing fatigue.
By understanding these relationships, better strategies could be possibly be developed to manage fatigue and improve overall health outcomes.
- Jiang KHearing Loss and Fatigue in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online July 06, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2023.1328 Spira AP Lin FR Deal JA Reed NS.