Have you ever suffered substantial mental exhaustion? Perhaps you felt this way after finishing the SAT examination, or after concluding any test or activity that mandated intense attentiveness. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to collapse.
A similar experience comes about in those with hearing loss, and it’s known as listening or hearing fatigue. Those with hearing loss receive only limited or incomplete sounds, which they then have to decipher. In terms of understanding speech, it’s like playing a continuous game of crosswords.
Those with hearing loss are provided with context and a few sounds and letters, but frequently they then have to fill in the blanks to decipher what’s being said. Speech comprehension, which is supposed to be natural, turns into a problem-solving exercise necessitating deep concentration.
For example: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You most likely realized that the haphazard collection of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also probably had to stop and think it over, filling in the blanks. Imagine having to read this entire article this way and you’ll have an appreciation for the listening demands placed on those with hearing loss.
The Personal Impact of Listening Fatigue
If speech comprehension becomes a chore, and social interaction becomes fatiguing, what’s the likely consequence? People will start to pass up communication situations completely.
That’s the reason why we observe many people with hearing loss come to be much less active than they had previously been. This can bring about social isolation, lack of sound stimulation to the brain, and to the higher rates of cognitive decline that hearing loss is increasingly being associated with.
The Societal Impact
Hearing loss is not just exhausting and frustrating for the individual: hearing loss has economic consequences 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 period of each person’s life. Together, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to lowered work productivity.
Providing support to 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 impact it had on income.
Tips for Reducing Listening Fatigue
Listening fatigue, therefore, has both high personal and economic costs. So what can be done to reduce its effects? Here are some tips:
- Wear Hearing aids – hearing aids help to “fill in the blanks,” thus preventing listening fatigue. While hearing aids are not perfect, they also don’t have to be—crossword puzzles are much easier if all the letters are filled in with the exclusion of one or two.
- Take periodic breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a rest, most of us will fail and stop trying. If we pace ourselves, taking regular breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day fairly easily. When you have the occasion, take a break from sound, find a calm area, or meditate.
- Limit background noise – bringing in background noise is like erasing the letters in a partially completed crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it hard to understand. Make an effort to control background music, find quiet places to talk, and go with the quieter areas of a restaurant.
- Read as a substitute to watching TV – this isn’t bad 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.