Listening Fatigue: It Can Be Exhausting to Listen with Hearing Loss
Do you tire easily when talking with other people? Maybe you feel like you want to crawl into bed after a long conversation? While it’s tempting to assume that this fatigue is because you were listening to a boring speaker, it’s possible that you are experiencing hearing fatigue.
This tiredness might be a function of the straining you exert to hear the conversation. This response is normal after a busy day. For example, most people feel like they need a break after a day packed with Zoom meetings. This fatigue is the brain’s way of signaling that it requires a minute to recover.
But for people with listening fatigue, this exhaustion sets in earlier than expected. Fewer stimuli are needed before the person feels like they need to step away from the conversation.
Listening fatigue could be an early sign of hearing loss. If you are experiencing hearing problems, it results in undue stress and focus when trying to understand a conversation. Just thinking about a conversation in a noisy environment makes you tired. Sometimes, this fatigue is so severe that people start to avoid social settings because it’s too hard to participate in conversations.
What is Listening Fatigue?
Even minor or moderate hearing loss forces your brain to work harder than usual. Most people aren’t aware of the straining that is happening because it is their “normal” experience when talking to others. Even simple activities like watching television and talking to a friend leave you feeling exhausted. At the end of the day, you feel like you ran a marathon because of the mental exertion in daily activities.
Listening fatigue results in higher exhaustion levels because of the ongoing, increased effort to listen to and understand the people to whom you are talking. People often compensate for hearing loss in the following ways, which all require more focus and concentration:
- Reading the speaker’s lips
- Adjusting body position to sit closer
- Highly focused concentration when other people are speaking
- Often asking friends and families to repeat themselves
- Trying to create meaning out of partial sentences and words
Good hearing enables the conversations to flow with minimal effort. On the other hand, it takes energy to capture every word that is spoken when a person is experiencing hearing loss.
Signs of Listening Fatigue
When your brain is working harder to capture, interpret and understand sounds, it takes a toll over time. Your brainpower is dedicated to conversation, which limits the focus available for other activities. Often, this experience causes a person to feel both physically and mentally drained.
Common signs of listening fatigue include:
- Low energy
- Exhaustion at the end of the day
- Unexplained tiredness after conversations or events
- Increased stress levels
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced school or work performance
Symptoms can vary from one person to the next. For example, a child might not have the understanding or awareness that they are experiencing hearing problems. Instead, parents can notice that something is going on because of the child’s moodiness and behavioral disruptions. A classroom can be overstimulating and challenging to navigate, causing the child to be exhausted when they arrive home in the afternoon.
Just because you are tired and have low energy doesn’t necessarily mean that your hearing levels cause it. The best thing you can do is work with your doctor to identify the underlying problems. If you find that you are struggling to hear what people are saying, then it’s a good idea to schedule a hearing test with a specialist.
Tips to Cope with Listening Fatigue
The most effective solution to resolve listening fatigue is to get to the root of the problem: hearing loss. But, even people with normal hearing can feel exhausted after intensely listening to a conversation. Here are a few tips you might consider to cope with listening fatigue more effectively:
- Take a break: When you are exposed to frequent noises and conversation, find a few moments of the day when you can enjoy a little bit of quiet time.
- Breathe Deeply: If you feel overwhelmed, then practice deep breathing to manage the stress. Breathing exercises can clear your mind and rebalance your blood pressure.
- Minimize Background Noise: If you have the option, look for ways to cut out the background noise. For example, turn off the TV or radio if you aren’t actively listening to the program. This way, you will focus on the conversation without other stimuli that the brain needs to process.
- Close Your Eyes: A short nap can do wonders to re-energize you after an intense conversation. Take 20 – 30 minutes to rest and rejuvenate.
What to Do about Listening Fatigue
If you notice these signs of listening fatigue in yourself or a loved one, the next step is to talk to a hearing professional. We can rule out potential causes of listening fatigue with a thorough hearing test to measure your levels of hearing.
When a diagnosis is determined, then we can assist with treatment plans to improve your hearing. For example, wearing hearing aids can be a great option to enhance your hearing clarity. As you are proactive about correcting your hearing, you will find that listening fatigue symptoms will naturally improve as well.
Hearing aids help with listening fatigue because they make it easier to understand the speed and interpret sounds. These personalized hearing devices can be helpful in a variety of environments. You’ll find that the day flows more smoothly and you don’t have to spend as much energy on communication.
Modern Hearing Aids to Optimize Your Experience
Technology has come a long way in recent years, creating unique features that improve the experience of wearing hearing aids. Many of today’s hearing aids reduce listening fatigue by clarifying the sounds you want to hear and reducing background noises.
The recommended hearing aids will vary depending on the severity of your hearing loss. Sometimes, a little amplification is sufficient to improve the sounds and decrease your fatigue each day. In severe hearing loss cases, it might be necessary to use cochlear implants or other more involved hearing treatments.
For more information about hearing tests and treatment, contact our knowledgeable team at Fairfax Hearing Center. We’ll book a time for you to meet with a hearing specialist.