Have you ever suffered substantial mental exhaustion? Perhaps you felt this way after finishing the SAT exam, or after completing any examination or task that called for serious concentration. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re finished, you just want to crash.
A comparable experience happens in those with hearing loss, and it’s known as listening or hearing fatigue. Those with hearing loss receive only partial or incomplete sounds, which they then have to decipher. In terms of comprehending speech, it’s like playing a continuous game of crosswords.
Those with hearing loss are provided with context and a few sounds and letters, but in many cases they then have to fill in the blanks to decode what’s being said. Language comprehension, which is intended to be natural, ends up being a problem-solving exercise demanding serious concentration.
For example: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?
You most likely realized that the haphazard assortment of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also probably had to stop and think it over, filling in the blanks. 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 Effects of Listening Fatigue
If speech comprehension becomes a chore, and socializing becomes tiring, what’s the likely result? People will begin to pass up communication situations completely.
That’s the reason why we observe many individuals with hearing loss come to be a lot less active than they used to be. This can bring about 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 repercussions 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 span of each person’s life. Together, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to depleted work efficiency.
Corroborating this assertion, the Better Hearing Institute found that hearing loss adversely impacted household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Furthermore, 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 individual and societal costs. So what can be done to alleviate 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 exception of one or two.
- Take routine breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a rest, the majority of us will fail and give up. If we pace ourselves, taking regular breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day relatively easily. When you have the occasion, take a break from sound, retreat to a peaceful area, or meditate.
- Minimize background noise – adding background noise is like erasing the letters in a partially complete crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it difficult to comprehend. Attempt to limit background music, find quiet spots to talk, and pick the quieter areas of a restaurant.
- Read in the place of watching TV – this isn’t bad advice by itself, but for those with hearing loss, it’s doubly pertinent. After spending a day inundated by sound, give your ears a rest and read a book.