Understanding Hearing Loss and Listening Fatigue

Young boy sitting at a table and looking at a laptop computer.

Employees working from remote offices are exhausted. They are tired of drawn-out meetings via video platforms. However, for people with hearing loss, the problem is magnified. Video chats make them feel tired and overwhelmed. Learn more about hearing loss and listening fatigue and how to cope with them.

Brain exhaustion

Tiny hairs in your ear pick up sounds around you. They send electrical signals to the brain through the auditory nerve. If the hairs are damaged, they cannot detect all sounds. The brain must work harder to process and translate noises, often at a slower pace. That is why hearing loss can overstimulate the sensory system, exhausting the brain.

Impacts millions

Over 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, reports the Hearing Loss Association of America. It is the third most common health problem. People with hearing loss often do not feel comfortable talking with others. They tend to withdraw, which can lead to depression and increased anxiety. If hearing loss is not treated, people are at greater risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Options for treatment

Although hearing loss cannot be reversed, there are solutions to help people deal with it. Hearing aids and amplifiers are excellent options for people with mild hearing loss. For people with more severe hearing loss, cochlear implants are an option. These implants stimulate the auditory nerve directly and provide a sense of sound.

Wearing hearing aids can help people feel less frustrated when communicating with co-workers and family members. While wearing a hearing aid, the individual who is hard of hearing has better word recall and their responses in conversations are more appropriate. Their brain is less tired because it does not have to work so hard to understand sounds. As a result, people feel more confident at work and in relationships with others. They also are more willing to participate in virtual meetings.

People may put off getting hearing aids for several reasons, thinking that they are challenging to use, uncomfortable and expensive. But today’s hearing aids are more comfortable than styles made in the past. There also are many affordable hearing aids that fit different budget needs.

Tips for coping

Healthy Hearing offers four tips to help you cope with hearing fatigue:

  1. Take deep breaths – When feeling overwhelmed, breathing deeply helps clear the mind, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.
  2. Reduce background noise – People with hearing loss have difficultly separating words from background sounds. Reducing the extra noise can make it easier to focus on and understand what people are saying. For example, when connecting with friends, meet up at a quiet restaurant or bookstore vs. a noisy coffee shop.
  3. Rest – The National Sleep Foundation says taking a 20 to 30-minute nap can help rest the brain. After the nap, it is easier to focus on conversations.
  4. Relax – Take a walk or read in a quiet place to help the brain relax and unwind.

Healthy Hearing