What is “listening fatigue”?

It’s not unusually for people to be tired when they leave work. For those people with hearing loss, the weariness is multiplied by the strain of deciphering what people were saying all day. This is known as listening fatigue. A normal hearing person rarely has to think about the effort they expend to listen. For people with hearing loss, things are much different. Listening is hard work that can leave them exhausted after only a few hours.

A study by the Danish Institute for Social Research found that 15 percent of people with hearing loss in the workforce experience listening fatigue so intense, by the end of the workday they don’t have the energy for leisure activities.

Moderate hearing loss

When you have a moderate hearing loss you may only hear 50% of what is said. So in order to communicate effectively, you have to fill in the gaps with a combination of lip reading, context clues, and guessing. Just imagine if holding a simple conversation required you to solve a puzzle. Now think of the number of conversations you have in a day? That’s a lot of puzzles for you brain to solve, so it’s no surprise your hearing loss can affect your work.

According to the Better Hearing Institute untreated hearing loss causes $56 billion in lost productivity in the workplace each year. They attribute much of that lost productivity to listening fatigue. The energy you use to listen and communicate takes away from the energy you need to perform other tasks at work. By the time you get home you are too exhausted to do anything else. Hearing loss has also been blamed for many people exiting the workforce altogether.

The good news is hearing aids help to reduce listening fatigue drastically. They make listening less of a task, so your brain can conserve energy for other things. New hearing aid technology even isolates and amplifies the sounds you want to hear, while reducing background noise.

If you find you are still suffering from listening fatigue with your hearing aids try taking frequent listening breaks. Turn off you hearing aids, or go someplace quiet and give your ears 5-minute rests throughout the day so that your brain has a chance to recharge.