Whether you have hearing loss or not, most of us are familiar with the exhaustion that is felt after exiting a party or, to keep up with the times, leaving a Zoom call. But for people with hearing loss, this exhaustion – known as mental fatigue or listening fatigue – can be felt after every social interaction, no matter how brief.
Why Hearing Loss Causes Fatigue
There are many parts of the ears and brain that help us hear and make meaning of auditory input.
Within the inner ears, there are tiny sensory hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as meaningful sound. People with sensorineural hearing loss must work harder to make sense of this information, which can be exhausting. This is because each hair cell is responsible for specific frequencies; when these cells are damaged or destroyed, the auditory system can no longer process that particular frequency, forcing the brain to work harder to compensate.
There are three parts of the brain that work together to process sound and produce speech:
- The temporal lobe: contains the auditory cortex, which receives sensory information from the inner ear
- Wernicke’s area: responsible for speech comprehension
- Broca’s area: responsible for speech production
Untreated hearing loss can actually cause brain shrinkage and atrophy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, so early intervention is key.
How to Cope with Listening Fatigue
Below are tips for coping with listening fatigue. While these tips were compiled with people who have hearing loss in mind, anybody can benefit from following these tips when they experience listening fatigue.
Whether you’re working in a noisy office or simply enjoying dinner at Stokes Grill and Bar, it’s important to take listening breaks whenever you need them. Excusing yourself to go for a walk outside or find a quiet corner, even for just a few minutes, may provide the rest you need to get back to socializing without becoming too fatigued to carry on.
Eliminate Background Noise
People with hearing loss have an especially difficult time socializing when background noise is present. Finding somewhere quiet to converse can prevent listening fatigue.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises have been shown to help you feel less overwhelmed, stressed or frustrated. Finding time each day to breathe deeply and practice mindfulness will help clear your mind and reduce stress.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Central Plains ENT today.