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Listening Fatigue: The Unseen Effect of Hearing Loss

By digitaljoe

Are you unusually tired as the day goes on? Ready to fall into bed, exhausted at the end of the day? Do conversations leave you feeling drained?

You may be experiencing listening fatigue, one of the side effects of hearing loss.

What is listening fatigue?

When you’re listening, it’s not just your ears that your working. Your brain is engaged and processing to convert what you hear into meaningful sounds. This process can become that much more complicated and labor-intensive when you have hearing loss. During the day, we have so many conversations and contacts with other people.  Every time, our brain jumps to work to listen, understand and respond. With hearing loss, all of this requires more energy to:

  • Hear the spoken words and determine their meanings
  • Watch for visual cues to help fill in the missing pieces and meaning
  • Tune out background noise and distractions

All of this extra effort leads to listening fatigue.

It’s only in recent years that listening fatigue has started to come to light as a recognized side effect of hearing loss, even if it’s not yet a diagnosis.  This is a step in the right direction for the many people with hearing loss who for years have shared stories of their fatigue. Some research has now even taken a closer look at the phenomenon to better understand it. 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

While it may take some extra steps to reduce and avoid listening fatigue, it is possible with strategies like these:

  • Rely on hearing aids: If you believe hearing loss is the reason for your fatigue, schedule a hearing evaluation, then get fitted for a hearing aid. If you already have a hearing aid, work with your hearing healthcare provider to adjust your hearing aid to ensure that it’s working at its best for your listening needs. This small study that confirmed listening fatigue as a side effect of 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.”
  • Schedule in breaks: During the day, give your brain breaks by taking short naps or walks away from the interactions and listening demands. Give meditation or deep breathing a try to take a brief and recharging mental break.
  • Spend time on quiet activities: People with hearing loss can help reduce listening fatigue by spending more time on quieter activities like reading instead of watching television or listening to the radio. This includes socializing where smaller and quieter group activities may be less neurally demanding than large and noisy group activities.

If you’ve been weighed down by listening fatigue as part of your hearing loss, you’re not alone, but you can take steps to minimize it! Life can be tiring enough. Don’t let listening fatigue sap your energy even more.

If you have questions or would like to schedule a hearing evaluation or hearing aid adjustment, contact our office to set up an appointment.