Woman holding her hands up to her forehead exhausted

Have you ever suffered intensive mental exhaustion? Perhaps you felt this way after completing the SAT exam, or after concluding any examination or task that required serious concentration. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to crash.

A similar experience happens in those with hearing loss, and it’s known as listening or hearing fatigue. Those with hearing loss take in only partial or incomplete sounds, which they then have to decipher. In terms of comprehending speech, it’s like playing a never-ending game of crosswords.

Those with hearing loss are presented with context and a few sounds and letters, but frequently they then have to fill in the blanks to decode what’s being said. Speech comprehension, which is intended to be natural and effortless, comes to be a problem-solving exercise necessitating serious concentration.

For instance: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?

You probably figured out that the haphazard assortment of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also likely had to stop and think it over, filling in the blanks. Picture having to read this entire article this way and you’ll have an appreciation for the listening demands placed on those with hearing loss.

The Personal Effects of Listening Fatigue

If speech comprehension becomes a laborious task, and social interaction becomes exhausting, what’s the likely outcome? People will begin to stay away from communication situations completely.

That’s exactly the reason we observe many individuals with hearing loss come to be a lot less active than they had previously been. This can result in social isolation, lack of sound stimulation to the brain, and to the higher rates of mental decline that hearing loss is increasingly being connected with.

The Societal Effects

Hearing loss is not just exhausting and frustrating for the individual: hearing loss has economic consequences as well.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that the societal cost of severe to profound hearing loss in the US is around $300,000 per person over the course of each person’s life. Collectively, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, most of the cost is attributable to lowered work productivity.

Corroborating this assertion, the Better Hearing Institute discovered that hearing loss adversely affected household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Furthermore, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the effect it had on income.

Tips for Minimizing Listening Fatigue

Listening fatigue, then, has both high individual and economic costs. So what can be done to reduce its effects? Here are some tips:

  • Wear Hearing aidshearing aids help to “fill in the blanks,” thus preventing listening fatigue. While hearing aids are not perfect, they also don’t have to be—crossword puzzles are a lot easier if all the letters are filled in with the exception of one or two.
  • Take regular breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a break, most of us will fail and give up. If we pace ourselves, taking periodic breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day fairly easily. When you have the occasion, take a rest from sound, retreat to a quiet area, or meditate.
  • Limit background noise – adding background noise is like erasing the letters in a partly completed crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it hard to understand. Make an effort to control background music, find quiet areas to talk, and pick out the quieter areas of a restaurant.
  • Read as a substitute to watching TV – this isn’t terrible advice on its own, but for those with hearing loss, it’s even more relevant. After spending a day flooded by sound, give your ears a break and read a book.