Have you ever experienced intensive mental exhaustion? Maybe you felt this way after completing the SAT exam, or after concluding any examination or task that called for intense attentiveness. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to crash.
An analogous experience comes about 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 make sense out of. With respect to comprehending speech, it’s like playing a nonstop 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 demanding deep concentration.
For instance: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You probably worked out that the random array of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also probably had to stop and think it over, filling in the blanks. Picture having to read this entire article in this manner 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 laborious task, and social interaction becomes strenuous, what’s the likely consequence? People will begin to pass up communication situations completely.
That’s exactly the reason we witness 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 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) 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. Collectively, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to decreased work efficiency.
Supporting this claim, the Better Hearing Institute found that hearing loss negatively impacted household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Additionally, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the effect it had on income.
Tips for Minimizing Listening Fatigue
Listening fatigue, therefore, has both high personal and societal costs. So what can be done to minimize 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 occasional breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a break, the majority 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 opportunity, take a rest from sound, retreat to a tranquil area, or meditate.
- Reduce background noise – adding background noise is like erasing the letters in a partly complete crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it hard to comprehend. Try to limit background music, find quiet areas to talk, and pick out the less noisy sections of a restaurant.
- Read as a substitute to watching TV – this isn’t terrible advice by itself, but for those with hearing loss, it’s doubly pertinent. After spending a day flooded by sound, give your ears a break and read a book.