What is Listening Fatigue?

Auditory Fatigue aka Listening Fatigue

Do you find that you’re unusually tired as the day goes by? Does conversation with others drain you more than it should?

These could be signs of listening fatigue, otherwise known as auditory fatigue, and it is a common condition that goes hand-in-hand with hearing loss.

What is listening fatigue?

The process of listening involves more than just ears taking in sound waves. As sound is coming in, the brain is continually working to process and translate those waves into what we understand as sounds.

While it can be a seamless process usually, it can become more labor-intensive with hearing loss. This means that with hearing loss, our brain has to work harder and expend more energy to:

  • Hear words and sentences to understand the meaning of them
  • Tune in to the important sounds while filtering out background noises
  • Take in visual cues for a more complete understanding of what we’re hearing

More concentration plus more energy equals listening fatigue.

A hidden symptom of hearing loss

Hearing loss can be so gradual that many of us don’t realize that our hearing is changing. Listening fatigue is now recognized as a side effect of hearing loss that can show up before we even know we have hearing loss. It is also a condition that has only recently been recognized as a result of hearing loss. Once written off as ordinary fatigue or just another part of aging or something similar, hearing healthcare professionals now see that it can be a very real issue with hearing loss, not just another anecdotal story. Research is now digging into auditory fatigue to understand it better. One small study concluded, “Results from subjective and select objective measures suggest sustained speech-processing demands can lead to mental fatigue in persons with hearing loss.”

Managing listening fatigue

Listening fatigue doesn’t have to be inevitable. Taking steps like these can help you reduce your fatigue even with hearing loss:

  • Use hearing aids: If you have hearing aids, use them all day, every day not only to improve your hearing but to minimize listening fatigue. If you aren’t sure if your fatigue is related to hearing loss, schedule a hearing evaluation. A hearing healthcare provider can determine if there is a hearing loss and will most likely recommend hearing aids to manage it and reduce auditory fatigue. This small study on listening fatigue 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 breaks: Don’t be afraid to step away for some quiet time alone or for a nap to let your brain rest. Many experts recommend meditation for a variety of health benefits, and it can also be a smart choice to give your mind a break and prevent listening fatigue.
  • Enjoy quiet activities: It might seem like watching television or listening to the radio would be a good way to relax, but with hearing loss, it can require more effort from your brain to process the sounds you’re hearing. Instead, spend more time on quiet activities like reading or gardening. Opt for small group activities instead of those with lots of background noise or large groups.

Take control of your hearing, your mental health, and your energy levels by taking steps like these to help prevent and minimize listening fatigue as part of your hearing loss.

If you have questions about your listening fatigue or are ready to schedule a hearing evaluation to determine if you have hearing loss, contact our office.

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