Hearing Loss and Listening Fatigue
The stresses of everyday life can test your endurance and patience.
If, at the end of the day, you feel more exhausted than you think is appropriate, it might be time to schedule a recheck of your hearing. You may have listening fatigue, a condition caused by the increased effort you’re exerting to listen and understand. This can occur when your hearing has worsened or your hearing aids need adjustment.
Hearing is a complex function. The sensory hair cells of the inner ear translate the sounds of the world into electrical signals and send them through the auditory nerve to the brain. Each hair cell is responsible for encoding a specific pitch or frequency. When hair cells die or are damaged, the auditory system can no longer transmit information about the range of frequencies those cells previously detected. This causes the brain to work harder to process the incoming stimulus.
Coping with Listening Fatigue
Even for those who have normal hearing, intense listening can be an exhausting experience.
Here are a few tips for coping with listening fatigue throughout the day:
- Eliminate background noise whenever possible. The less background noise your ears and brain have to process, the less taxing it will be to tune in to the conversation, and the more energy you’ll have listening.
- Take a listening break. Go for a walk in nature or along a quiet street, or find somewhere to close your eyes and relax for a few minutes. Even if you’re a busy professional, find a quiet place to eat your lunch to provide a midday listening respite.
- Practice deep breathing. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed or frustrated, spend a few minutes doing some deep breathing exercises. This activity will help clear your mind and put you more at ease.
- Take a nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 20-30 minute nap can improve your alertness and performance without leaving you groggy or interfering with your nighttime sleep. Besides the energy boost a nap can provide, you’ll get the added bonus of quiet time.
Hearing Aids Help
Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants improve listening and speech comprehension and effectively decrease listening fatigue.
A 2011 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University tested 16 adults (47 to 69 years old) with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss to see what effect hearing aids would have on listening effort and mental fatigue. The participants’ word recognition, word recall and visual reaction times were tested with and without hearing aids. Results indicated that subjects demonstrated better word recall, and their reaction times were significantly faster when wearing hearing aids.
If you are experiencing symptoms of listening fatigue, give us a call to schedule an appointment to reevaluate your hearing and check the performance of your hearing aids.
We thank healthyhearing.com for providing the foundation for this article.