Have you ever experienced severe mental fatigue? Maybe you felt this way after finishing the SAT exam, or after concluding any test or task that required intensive attentiveness. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to crash.
A comparable experience develops in those with hearing loss, and it’s referred to as listening fatigue. Those with hearing loss receive only limited or incomplete sounds, which they then have to decode. With respect to comprehending speech, it’s like playing a never-ending 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. Language comprehension, which is intended to be natural, becomes a problem-solving workout necessitating serious concentration.
For instance: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You probably realized that the haphazard collection of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also likely 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 Effects of Listening Fatigue
If speech comprehension becomes a chore, and socializing becomes exhausting, what’s the likely outcome? People will begin to avoid communication situations completely.
That’s why we observe many individuals with hearing loss become a lot 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 mental decline that hearing loss is increasingly being associated with.
The Societal Effects
Hearing loss is not exclusively fatiguing and frustrating 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 around $300,000 per person over the period of each person’s life. Collectively, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, the majority of the cost is attributable to diminished work productivity.
Supporting this assertion, the Better Hearing Institute discovered that hearing loss negatively affected household income by an average of $12,000 per year. Additionally, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the impact it had on income.
Tips for Reducing Listening Fatigue
Listening fatigue, then, has both high personal and societal 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 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 exception of one or two.
- Take routine breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a break, the majority of us will fail and give up. If we pace ourselves, taking periodic breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day fairly easily. When you have the occasion, take a rest from sound, find a tranquil area, or meditate.
- Reduce background noise – introducing background noise is like erasing the letters in a partly complete crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it difficult to understand. Try to control background music, find quiet locations to talk, and opt for the quieter sections of a restaurant.
- Read as a substitute to watching TV – this isn’t bad advice by itself, but for those with hearing loss, it’s doubly pertinent. After spending a day bombarded by sound, give your ears a rest and read a book.