What is Listening Fatigue? (And How To Overcome It!)

We all have responsibilities throughout our day that may leave us needing a nap by 5pm. Whether at work, running errands, or participating in social activities, life can be exhausting. But for those with hearing loss, day to day activities can be even more tiring than they would be for those with healthy hearing. This is due to Listening Fatigue, a condition caused by hearing loss that has some in the deaf and hard of hearing community yawning throughout the day. According to a survey by the Danish Institute for Social Research, listening fatigue is making up to 15% of those with hearing loss participating in the workforce so exhausted, that they have no energy left for recreational activities. As you can imagine, this can affect your quality of life, social relationships, and overall happiness, but there are ways to cope with listening fatigue and reduce the exhaustion throughout the day.

What Is Listening Fatigue?

For those with healthy hearing, listening is as natural as breathing or blinking. Relatively little effort is used to focus on sounds and comprehend their meaning, but for those suffering from hearing loss, the opposite is true. With hearing loss, your brain exerts more energy and effort than usual to process auditory information, slowly chipping away at your energy reserves throughout the day. This process can not only leave you mentally exhausted but worn out physically as well.
Ian Noon, the Chief Policy Advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society in the United Kingdom, describes this process and just how exhausting it can be. “It’s about the energy involved in lip-reading and being attentive all day long. Processing and constructing meaning out of half-heard words and sentences. Making guesses and figuring out context. And then thinking of something intelligent to say in response to an invariably random question. It’s like doing jigsaws, Sudoku, and Scrabble all at the same time.”

Tips To Overcome Listening Fatigue

Unfortunately, damage to the fragile sensory cells needed for healthy hearing is irreversible, but there are ways to make your daily activities easier to manage.

  • Having a healthy sleep schedule is a cornerstone to your overall health, but studies indicate that chronic sleep loss can reduce your alertness, and even depress brain functions. This can make listening throughout the day even more difficult for those with hearing loss. If you are suffering from hearing loss, getting a full 8 hours can significantly increase your quality of life.
  • Limit your exposure to sounds throughout the day when possible to give the complex processes in your brain a much-needed break. Instead of watching TV or listening to music to relax, consider reading in a secluded area. Environments with a lot of background noise such as shopping malls or the outdoors can apply even more stress to the auditory cortex and overwhelm you even further.

If listening fatigue is leaving you exhausted throughout the day, consider speaking to a hearing health professional. Devices such as hearing aids or a change in medication can improve your quality of life and reduce further damage to your hearing, leaving you more awake throughout the day and with more energy to do the things you love.


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