Are you wondering about hearing loss? There is often more to it than meets the eye. Hearing loss is defined as “being partly or totally unable to hear sound in one or both ears.” What this definition doesn’t specify is that hearing loss can be much more complex and involve a variety of secondary conditions, including listening fatigue.
What is Listening Fatigue?
You may have heard before that we hear with our ears, but listen with our brains. This brain-driven listening is especially true for those with a degree of hearing loss. During the day, we engage in countless conversations and interactions with others. Each of these interactions requires us to engage our brains to listen, understand and participate. When there are hearing problems involved, listening requires additional effort and energy to catch all of the spoken words and their meanings, watch for visual cues and tune out background noise and distractions that can interfere with understanding. This extra energy used throughout the day results in listening fatigue.
Listening fatigue is only recently coming to light as a common condition faced by those with hearing problems. While it is not yet a clinically recognized diagnosis, listening fatigue is the term used more and more often by hearing care professionals to describe what so many with hearing loss have been sharing anecdotally over the years. Those affected share stories of extreme tiredness as the day goes on and research is now beginning to confirm these personal experiences on a bigger scale. One small study on listening fatigue (also called listener fatigue) concluded, “Results from subjective and select objective measures suggest sustained speech-processing demands can lead to mental fatigue in persons with hearing loss.”
How to Overcome Listening Fatigue
Life is tiring enough without listening fatigue from hearing loss! The good news is, there are ways to prevent and overcome this common tiredness.
- Hearing Aids: Getting fitted for or working with a hearing specialist to fine tune your hearing aid is the first step to reducing or eliminating listener’s fatigue. In fact, the small study that confirmed listening fatigue as a common side effect for those with hearing loss also found that “the use of clinically fit hearing aids may reduce listening effort and susceptibility to mental fatigue associated with sustained speech-processing demands.”
- Take a Break: This is good advice for anyone, but especially those who want to avoid listening fatigue. Throughout the day, take short walks or even a nap to allow your brain a period of rest from the demands of auditory stimulus.
- Opt for quiet activities: Pastimes with less background noise and those that require less active listening can help reduce fatigue throughout the day. Instead of listening to the radio or watching television, flip through a magazine or read a book. Limit large group and noisier activities for smaller groups and quieter destinations when possible.
With more attention now focused on this secondary condition of hearing loss, research into the relationship between hearing and the brain and how to overcome listening fatigue is continuing to grow.