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Listening Fatigue

What is it and how can you relieve it?

What is listening fatigue?

A lot of people with hearing loss go through what's known as listening fatigue or listener fatigue at some point. It's when you get mentally, physically, and emotionally drained from straining to hear. This fatigue often shows up as an early sign of hearing loss and tends to occur more often as hearing loss gets worse. People with hearing loss often need to take breaks during conversations and in noisy places to let their brain recover.

Understanding the causes of listening fatigue

Hearing loss makes your brain work extra hard to hear and understand. It can make it tough to keep up in conversations, follow TV shows, or communicate well in noisy places. As a result, many people with hearing loss feel the effects of listening fatigue, like feeling tired, having trouble focusing, being more stressed, or experiencing changes in mood.

Keep in mind that listening fatigue typically doesn't happen without hearing loss. If you're dealing with listening fatigue, chances are you have some level of hearing loss.

How ears and brain collaborate to process audio

The brain's sound-processing system has three key components: the temporal lobe, Wernicke's area, and Broca's area. Let's take a quick look at each one.

The temporal lobe

This is where the primary auditory cortex is located, which receives sensory sound information from the inner ear.

Wernicke’s area

This is the part of the brain responsible for comprehending and processing speech.

Broca’s area

This is the area that takes care of speaking and producing speech.

How sound is pocessed and interpreted

Sound begins its journey by entering the outer ear and traveling through the ear canal to reach the eardrum. As incoming sound waves make the eardrum vibrate, this energy is transferred to the middle ear. In the middle ear, tiny bones work their magic, transforming these vibrations into mechanical energy, which then travels to the inner ear.

Inside the inner ear, this mechanical energy sets tiny hair cells into motion, generating electrical signals. These signals are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain, where they're decoded and recognised as sound. That's when the auditory message is processed and understood.

How do you overcome listening fatigue?

Dealing with listening fatigue? There are ways to handle it. Check out these strategies to help you manage fatigue when it strikes.

Walk away from the noise

If you're in a stressful situation, taking a step back can help you unwind and regroup. So, when your listening fatigue is hitting hard and you're feeling extra tired, don't hesitate to take a break. Seek a calm, quiet place away from the noise, and give yourself some time to recharge.

Take a deep breath

Regardless of the circumstances, deep breathing is a useful way to centre yourself, reduce stress, and even lower your heart rate. Listener fatigue can bring on stress, and noisy surroundings can make the mental strain even worse. So, if you're starting to feel anxious or frustrated because of listening fatigue, take a moment to close your eyes and practice some deep breathing.

Here's how to do it effectively: inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs. Hold your breath for a second, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

Get rid of unwanted background noise

Background noise can make your listening experience more challenging. It can be tough to understand what someone is saying when you're in a noisy environment. For instance, if there's music playing or the TV is on while you're trying to have a conversation or listen to something, background noise can be quite distracting. In such situations, feel free to turn off the extra noise or even step out of the room to have a better conversation.

Remove your hearing aids gor a while

Even with hearing aids, listening fatigue can still be a part of your life. It's particularly common among new hearing aid users who are adjusting to a whole new world of sounds. While it's important to avoid taking long or frequent breaks from wearing your hearing aids, it's perfectly fine to take them off once in a while. This can give you a little break from the noise and allow you to rest your ears.

Maintain a regular sleep routine

Surprisingly, your sleep habits can have a big impact on how much listening fatigue affects your day to day. When you're physically exhausted from not getting enough sleep, listening fatigue can set in faster. It's a bit like how sleep deprivation can make you cranky and less productive at work. Listening fatigue can have a similar effect, and when you combine them, it can really pile up. That's why it's crucial to stick to a regular sleep schedule and aim for a full eight hours of sleep every night.

Hearing aids can help with ear fatigue

Brushing it off or just toughing it out can only worsen your listening fatigue. Hearing aids are a great way to deal with this condition, as they can reduce the effort you need to put into hearing, listening, and understanding what people are saying. This can go a long way in reducing your listening fatigue.

If you visit a hearing care professional at the Amplifon clinic nearest to you, they can help you get the right hearing aid to resolve that unwanted listening fatigue and help you hear properly.

An audiologist placing a hearing aid by the Amplifon center

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