You know that feeling of exhaustion you get after leaving a dinner party at The White Linen or a conference meeting at work? That feeling is called “listening fatigue,” and for people with hearing loss, it sets in much sooner and with less stimuli than for someone with normal hearing.
What Causes Listening Fatigue?
The ears and brain work together to help you hear. Within the ears are tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. Each cell is responsible for a different frequency.
When a dangerously loud sound passes through the ears, it can damage or even destroy these cells, meaning those particular frequencies are lost. The brain then has to work extra hard to fill in the gaps.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Research shows that hearing aids and cochlear implants can improve listening comprehension and decrease listening fatigue.
One study, published in the journal Ear and Hearing in 2013, sought to uncover the effects of wearing a hearing aid on listening effort and mental fatigue in adults with sensorineural hearing loss (caused by damage to stereocilia).
Sixteen participants ages 47 to 69 with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss were involved. Researchers conducted tests on word recognition, word recall and visual reaction times both with and without hearing aids.
The researchers found that word recall and reaction times were significantly better when participants wore hearing aids compared to when they didn’t, suggesting a decrease in listening effort.
Strategies for Improving Listening Fatigue
Hearing aids are a great first step for relieving listening fatigue, but even those who seek treatment for their hearing loss can still feel tired in certain listening situations. In order to curb this fatigue, we suggest:
- Taking breaks. If you’re in a stressful or tiring listening situation, take breaks as needed. You can find a quiet corner to sit in or perhaps take a walk around the block.
- Practicing deep breathing. Deep breathing exercises can help clear your mind, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
- Eliminating background noise. Background noise only makes listening harder. Reducing or eliminating it can help you listen for longer.
- Taking a nap. Sleeping for 20-30 minutes can make you feel more alert without interfering with your nighttime sleep.
For more information about coping with listening fatigue or to schedule an appointment with a hearing aid expert, call Topeka ENT today.