May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and Lake Regional Audiologist Jonathan Wilson, Au.D., CCC-A, is raising awareness about the very real problem of listening fatigue.
“Listening fatigue might sound like a made-up ailment for quieting a talkative friend, but for people with hearing loss, it’s no joke,” Dr. Wilson said. “Many people with hearing loss avoid situations that require long stretches of listening because it’s such a strain.”
What is Listening Fatigue?
Listeners with hearing loss must allocate more cognitive resources, or brain power, to hear and understand.
“They have to concentrate on listening closely,” Dr. Wilson said. “That takes mental effort, and sustaining that effort can be tiring. It also can require shifting resources from other cognitive tasks — such as visual processing or memory recall — which means even if the person manages to catch most of the words, they might struggle to keep up with the conversation.”
Why Does Fatigue Occur?
A person with normal hearing does not usually experience listening fatigue. The auditory system functions as it should, and the brain processes the information easily. When hearing loss is present, the brain has to compensate for the loss and work harder than before to process the same information, causing stress on the brain and finally fatigue.
Can I Reduce Listening Fatigue?
Dr. Wilson recommends the following actions to help with listening fatigue.
- Have your hearing professionally evaluated, diagnosed and managed by a licensed audiologist.
- Find out if appropriate clinically fit hearing aids could help reduce listening effort and mental fatigue.
- Use your hearing aids or other hearing devices during all your waking hours.
- Reduce the background noise in your environment, or use specific communication strategies to reduce the effects of background noise,
- Have quiet time during the day, for example read instead of watching TV.
“If you struggle with hearing loss and listening fatigue, it’s important to get help,” Dr. Wilson said. “Untreated, hearing loss is associated with such complications as social isolation, depression, anxiety — even dementia. Get help so you can enjoy conversations again.”
Concerned You or Your Child May Have Hearing Loss?
As an audiologist, Dr. Wilson identifies, diagnoses and provides treatment options for patients of all ages with hearing loss and dizziness. To learn the signs of hearing loss, visit identifythesigns.org. To learn more about audiology services at Lake Regional ENT & Audiology, visit www.lakeregional.com/audiology. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilson, call 573.302.2864.