When we spend the day at work listening to those around us talking on the phone, making business deals, or just taking in the world revolving around us, it can be enough to take the wind out of your sails. But for some, it can be utterly exhausting. For those dealing with listening fatigue due to hearing loss, an average day can leave them drained and over-sensitized from the noises around them.
For over 48 million people in America who live with hearing loss, trying to follow the conversations needed to get through a day at work, an outing with the family, or many other activities is a real struggle. Muddling through background noises or even white noise can increase fatigue brought on by this condition.
Listening fatigue is an abnormal state of health that is brought on by a person exerting more effort to listen and comprehend what they are hearing. It can happen to people with full hearing, especially if they work in a loud environment, but it’s much more apparent to those with hearing loss. This sensorineural condition can have the following symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Lowered sensitivity
- Inability to comprehend what is being said to you or around you
We all have tiny microscopic hair cells within our ears that do the job of translating sounds into electrical signals. These signals are then sent through the auditory nerve, where the brain then picks it up and makes it recognizable as the sounds we hear.
These hairs can be damaged by excessive noise, vigorous cleaning, or inserting foreign objects into the ear. When they become broken or die off, we lose the translation of these sounds to the brain. Therefore, we listen harder to comprehend what we are hearing, and this results in listening fatigue.
For those with normal hearing, the brain has three sections that work in conjunction with the auditory system. When able to function correctly, the temporal lobe, which is located behind the ears and along both sides of the brain, works with Wernicke’s area. This is located within the left side of the temporal lobe.
Werenicke’s area enables the comprehension of speech, while Broca’s area, which is located in the left frontal lobe, enables speech production. Without the sensory hairs in the ears to catch and transmit sound along the auditory nerve to the temporal lobe, which receives the electrical signals, these two areas are not able to function properly. This means we may not be able to comprehend or produce speech normally.
As the day goes on, you may notice that you feel more exhausted and are unable to concentrate. People often hit an after-lunch slump, but this will be different. It’ll be difficult to clearly hear what those around you are talking about.
It might be difficult to understand what is being said on a phone call. Unless you’re utilizing a hearing device that links via blue tooth or using a Skype or FaceTime type app where you can look at the caller and read their lips or get visual cues, it might be tough to have a phone conversation at the end of the day. You can suffer from exhaustion and overstimulation by that point.
By utilizing hearing devices, you can help save your brain from the added fatigue brought on by trying to listen and comprehend everything going on around you. Cochlear implants, as well as hearing aids, can help to increase the comprehension of sounds and speech while cutting back the fatigue one feels from exhaustive listening.
Other ways you can combat listening fatigue are to give yourself a break. Removing yourself from noisy areas and just taking a few minutes to enjoy the quiet can help. Going for a walk at lunch, or even just moving your computer to a quiet meeting room will offer you some relief. If you absolutely can’t get away from the noise, minimize it with noise-canceling headphones or earmuffs.
Use your eyes instead of your ears by turning on the Closed Caption setting when you watch TV or try reading a book instead. Doing breathing exercises to increase your oxygen intake can have a positive result on both your brain and your stress level. If you feel anxiety creeping in, try breathing deeply a few times through your nose, then releasing it through your mouth.
Giving your body fresh oxygen has both a calming effect as well as giving your system the oxygen it needs for optimal performance. When all else fails, take a nap. Short cat naps of 30 minutes or less can help rejuvenate your body. This will help get your mind back on track and you’ll feel alert and up to speed again.
In order to function at your body’s peak level of performance, you need regular checkups. If you think you’re having symptoms of listening fatigue, you should seek the advice of a qualified hearing professional. We can help you determine what type of hearing loss and how severe it is as well as advising you of your options. Call today to set up an appointment to see what we can do to get you back on the road to a healthy hearing life.