Increased hearing difficulties linked to the presence of a hearing loss can introduce cognitive and physical efforts that cause a strain on ones mental and physical state. We often feel tired after going to a concert or speaking with friends in a crowded space. Listening to speech in noise demands a heightened cognitive processing load. Therefore, our brains must work to filter out background noise, and other environmental stimulus to focus on speech. Studies have confirmed that people with a hearing loss suffer from greater hearing related fatigue than individuals with normal hearing. This can be attributed to mental effort, emotions, lack of sleep and consistently moving closer to those who are talking.
Cognitive fatigue stems from the effort required to listen closely to conversation. Furthermore, hard of hearing people not only use sounds, but also lip movement, facial expression, gestures and situational and linguistic context to fully understand conversation. Identifying, following and understanding each of these cues demands concentration that can be quite taxing on the brain. Moreover, recurring fatigue related to hearing difficulties can trigger negative emotions such as frustration, embarrassment and sadness. The combination of cognitive, physical and emotional fatigue can lead to social withdrawal and isolation.
Planning social activities allows the hard of hearing individual to control and create an ideal listening environment for themselves, which in turn would reduce communication breakdowns and listener fatigue. Quiet spaces with minimal background noise alleviate a lot of unnecessary stimulus. Finding quiet restaurants, coffee shops and other social spaces will foster an ideal listening environment. You can learn more about reducing noise in your home and how to cope in noisy restaurants by reading our other blog posts.
The use of hearing aids can have a great impact on reducing listening effort during challenging situations. They also serve to promote better social interactions and an improved quality of life. Most hearing aids on the market have advanced technologies to reduce background noise and improve speech intelligibility. This is done through the combination of directional microphones which can adjust focus within 360 degrees and noise reducing algorithms that amplify more of the speech cues while reducing the amplification of distracting sounds.
In addition, using FM systems, remote microphone accessories and assistive listening devices is another way to help mitigate hearing problems and decrease strained listening efforts. Visit your nearest Davidson Hearing Aid Centres to learn more about the benefits of hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
Jack A. Holman, Avril Drummond, Sarah E. Hughes & Graham Naylor (2019) Hearing impairment and daily-life fatigue: a qualitative study, International Journal of Audiology, 58:7, 408-416, DOI: 10.1080/14992027.2019.1597284