Most of us, whether we have hearing loss or not, are familiar with the feeling of relief after exiting a party or, more accurately for the times we live in, leaving a Zoom call. Social interactions can be exhausting, and no one knows this better than people with hearing loss. Mental fatigue, also known as listening fatigue, is extremely common for people who have to strain to hear and understand what people around them are saying during every interaction.
How Hearing Loss Causes Fatigue
There are many parts of the brain and ears that work together to help us hear, and when one part isn’t working correctly, it becomes much more difficult to make sense of sound.
Within the inner ears are tiny sensory hair cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy. This energy travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as meaningful sound. Each hair cell is responsible for specific frequencies; when these cells are damaged or destroyed, the auditory system can no longer process that particular frequency, forcing the brain to work harder to compensate.
Therefore, people who have sensorineural hearing loss have to both strain to pick up sound signals and also work hard to interpret their meaning.
There are three parts of the brain that work together to process sound and produce speech:
- The temporal lobe contains the auditory cortex, which receives sensory information from the inner ear.
- The Wernicke’s area is responsible for speech comprehension.
- The Broca’s area is responsible for speech production.
According to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, untreated hearing loss can lead to auditory deprivation and brain shrinkage, meaning the longer you go without treatment, the harder it is for your brain to re-learn how to process sounds. It can be very frustrating to begin treatment but still have to strain to make meaning of auditory input.
Coping with Listening Fatigue
Below are some tips for coping with listening fatigue:
Whether you’re in a noisy work-from-home setting or enjoying a picnic at Sam Houston Park, it’s important to take listening breaks whenever you need them. Excusing yourself to find a moment of silence and solitude may provide the rest you need to get back to socializing without becoming overly fatigued.
Eliminate Background Noise
People with hearing loss often have an especially difficult time when background noise is present. Finding somewhere quiet to converse can prevent mental fatigue.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises have been proven to help people reduce stress and tension and feel more relaxed.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Hearing Systems today.