Have you ever experienced extreme mental fatigue? Maybe you felt this way after finishing the SAT examination, or after concluding any examination or task that mandated deep concentration. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to collapse.
An analogous experience arises in those with hearing loss, and it’s referred to as listening fatigue. Those with hearing loss take in only limited or incomplete sounds, which they then have to decipher. With respect to comprehending speech, it’s like playing a continuous game of crosswords.
Those with hearing loss are presented with context and a few sounds and letters, but more often than not they then have to fill in the blanks to decipher what’s being said. Speech comprehension, which is supposed to be natural and effortless, comes to be a problem-solving workout demanding deep concentration.
For example: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You most likely worked out that the random assortment of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also likely had to stop and think about it, filling in the blanks. Just imagine having to read this entire article in this manner 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 strenuous, what’s the likely outcome? People will start to avert communication situations completely.
That’s exactly why we see many people with hearing loss come to be a lot less active than they had previously been. This can contribute to 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 Consequence
Hearing loss is not only exhausting and demoralizing for the individual: hearing loss has economic consequences as well.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates 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. Together, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to lowered work productivity.
Supporting this assertion, the Better Hearing Institute found that hearing loss negatively affected household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Additionally, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the impact it had on income.
Tips for Minimizing 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 avoiding 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 exception of one or two.
- Take regular breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a break, most 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, retreat to a peaceful area, or meditate.
- Limit background noise – introducing background noise is like erasing the letters in a partially completed crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it tough to understand. Attempt to control background music, find quiet spots to talk, and go with the quieter sections of a restaurant.
- Read in the place of watching TV – this isn’t terrible 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.