Fatigue. The moments when our brain and our bodies simply can’t do anymore.What if we want to hear a message and exhaust ourselves trying to hear it? Listening fatigue, also known as auditory fatigue, is a problem for many people and can be especially trying to those who are hearing impaired.
So how does listening wear us down? Listening fatigue, sometimes referred to as auditory fatigue, is the product of overexposure to an audio stimulus. This fatigue involves not having the tremendous amount of energy required for active listening. When there is no hearing loss involved, and the auditory system is functioning normally, information is processed easily by the brain. When a hearing impairment is present, the brain must work hard to compensate for the loss which ultimately results in auditory fatigue. The struggle can be overwhelming and cause those with a hearing loss to withdraw because the effort and intense concentration required is simply too much to endure.
Symptoms of Fatigue
The major symptom of listening fatigue is exhaustion. Our ears are always listening and working. We spend our days constantly taking in the sounds of the world around us. Filtering and attempting to ignore noise is difficult for those with normal hearing and it is a tremendous challenge for those who are hearing impaired. This inundation of noise is overwhelming for the hearing impaired who want nothing more than to rest. Along with fatigue comes a few other symptoms that may alert those with normal hearing to a problem:
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
- Talking in a louder tone than usual
- A decreased ability to hear mid-range and high frequencies
How to Prevent Fatigue
It is important to plan, think about your environment, and find out what works for you when dealing with listening fatigue. With family, it may be easier to visit with small groups instead of large groups. You may consider designating a quiet room at loud family gatherings in which to speak with family members. Requesting that background noises such as television and music be turned down or even turned off. At work, know in advance if conferences offer assistive listening devices. Try to sit close to speakers at meetings and conventions. There are steps that can be taken to lessen the chances of experiencing auditory fatigue. Here are six simple steps that you can take:
- Allow yourself listening breaks by turning hearing aid off
- If possible, eliminate background noises
- Turn off the television and read a book
- Avoid loud public places
- Practice deep breathing
Effective listening takes effort. It involves hearing and being able to put the components of a message together. It is understanding language, forming appropriate responses, and having the ability to keep a conversation going. Those with hearing problems must decode messages, be visually aware of body language and speechreading, and often listen while multitasking. So be aware of the symptoms of auditory fatigue. Be proactive in selecting an appropriate listening environment, and take steps to lessen auditory fatigue.