How to Handle Listening Fatigue From Hearing Loss
Have you ever suffered substantial mental exhaustion? Maybe you felt this way after completing the SAT examination, or after completing any examination or activity that mandated serious attentiveness. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re finished, you just want to crash.
An analogous experience develops in those with hearing loss, and it’s referred to as listening fatigue. Those with hearing loss receive only partial or incomplete sounds, which they then have to make sense out of. With respect to understanding speech, it’s like playing a continual game of crosswords.
Those with hearing loss are presented with context and a few sounds and letters, but frequently they then have to fill in the blanks to make sense of what’s being said. Language comprehension, which is supposed to be natural, becomes a problem-solving exercise requiring deep concentration.
For instance: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You most likely worked out that the random collection of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also probably had to stop and think about it, filling in the blanks. Imagine having to read this entire article this way and you’ll have an understanding for the listening demands placed on those with hearing loss.
The Personal Impact of Listening Fatigue
If speech comprehension becomes a laborious task, and socializing becomes exhausting, what’s the likely consequence? People will begin to avert communication situations entirely.
That’s exactly the reason we observe many individuals with hearing loss become much less active than they used to be. This can result in social isolation, lack of sound stimulation to the brain, and to the higher rates of cognitive decline that hearing loss is increasingly being linked to.
The Societal Impact
Hearing loss is not only fatiguing and demoralizing for the individual: hearing loss has economic repercussions as well.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that the societal cost of severe to profound hearing loss in the US is approximately $300,000 per person over the course of each person’s life. Collectively, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to lowered work efficiency.
Supporting this claim, the Better Hearing Institute discovered that hearing loss negatively impacted household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Furthermore, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the effect it had on income.
Tips for Minimizing Listening Fatigue
Listening fatigue, then, has both high individual and economic costs. So what can be done to minimize its effects? Here are some tips:
- Wear Hearing aids – hearing aids help to “fill in the blanks,” thus avoiding listening fatigue. While hearing aids are not perfect, they also don’t have to be—crossword puzzles are a lot easier if all the letters are filled in with the exclusion of one or two.
- Take routine breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a rest, most of us will fail and give up. If we pace ourselves, taking periodic breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day relatively easily. When you have the occasion, take a rest from sound, retreat to a quiet area, or meditate.
- Reduce background noise – adding background noise is like erasing the letters in a partly complete crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it tough to comprehend. Try to control background music, find quiet locations to talk, and select the quieter areas of a restaurant.
- Read instead of watching TV – this isn’t terrible advice on its own, but for those with hearing loss, it’s even more pertinent. After spending a day inundated by sound, give your ears a rest and read a book.