Hearing loss is tiring—many people with hearing loss experience listening fatigue (also known as listener fatigue) at some point. The term refers to the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion from overworking your brain while trying to hear. That fatigue is an early sign of hearing loss and will happen more frequently as hearing loss progresses. People with hearing loss will likely have to take breaks from conversations and noisy environments to give their brain time to recoup.
With hearing loss, your brain has to work harder to hear and listen. Hearing loss can prevent your brain from processing auditory information, and you may find it difficult to keep up in conversation, follow along with a TV show or effectively communicate in noisy environments. As a result, many people with hearing loss will experience listening fatigue symptoms, such as low energy, difficulty concentrating, elevated stress or shifts in mood.
One thing to note: Listening fatigue usually doesn’t occur without hearing loss. If you have listening fatigue, you likely have some degree of hearing loss.
The sound-processing function of the brain consists of three main parts: the temporal lobe, Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area. Here’s a short summary of each part.
Sound first goes through the outer ear, then through the ear canal to the eardrum. The incoming sound waves vibrate the eardrum, which then goes along to the middle ear. Bones within the middle ear subsequently convert the vibrations into mechanical energy and send that energy to the inner ear. There, the mechanical energy causes tiny hair cells to move, creating electrical signals. Those signals are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain, where they are processed as sound. That’s when the auditory message is interpreted and understood!
Are you struggling with listening fatigue? There are ways to cope with it. See these methods to ease fatigue when it happens.
No matter the situation, deep breathing is a helpful way to center yourself, calm down and even lower your heart rate. Listener fatigue can induce stress, and overwhelming and noisy environments may worsen the mental strain that comes with it. So, if you’re becoming anxious or frustrated due to your listening fatigue, take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
To do so effectively, first, breathe in through your nose so your chest and abdomen gradually rise; and you fill your lungs. Hold for a second, then release slowly through your mouth.
Ignoring or simply trying to cope with hearing loss can perpetuate listener fatigue. Hearing aids are a helpful listening fatigue treatment that reduces the amount of effort you need to put in while trying to listen, hear or catch what someone’s saying. That will help minimize your listening fatigue.
A hearing care professional at your local Miracle-Ear location can help you get fitted for a hearing aid to resolve that unwanted listening fatigue and help you hear comfortably.