Life can be hectic and overwhelming which can make you feel exhausted. But it shouldn’t happen on a regular basis. If you feel tired often at the end of the day and your medical checkup comes back clean, you might consider making an appointment with a hearing health professional. It’s possible you’re suffering from listening fatigue.
This disorder happens when your system is overwhelmed by the effort you exert to listen and comprehend what is going on around you. This condition happens when people have an untreated case of sensorineural hearing loss. Many aren’t even aware of its existence, much less the fact that they are suffering the effects of the condition.
A sensorineural hearing problem occurs when either the inner ear or the auditory nerve is unable to deliver sound to the brain. It’s one of the most common types of hearing loss and is a permanent condition caused by damage to either the auditory nerve or the cilia, which are tiny hair-like cells within the inner ear.
The cilia translate the noises heard by the outer ear into electrical signals and then transmits them to the auditory nerve and on to the brain. There are approximately 3500 individual cilia hair cells within the cochlea and 12,000 located outside the cochlear coil that work together to allow us to hear.
Each individual hair cell is in charge of an established frequency or pitch. If a hair cell dies or becomes damaged, the auditory system is unable to transmit the sounds that specific hair was responsible for. Without this transmission, listeners are unable to grasp the loudness or clarity of the sounds they are hearing, and the brain must work harder to analyze the incoming data.
For those with normal hearing, there is a correlation between the temporal lobe, Wernicke’s area, and Broca’s area that works with the auditory system to evaluate sounds and in turn, generate speech. The temporal lobe is where the primary auditory cortex is located. Its job is to receive sensory information from the inner ear.
Wernicke’s area is responsible for the comprehension of speech and is found on the left side of the brain, within the temporal lobe. Broca’s area is in charge of the production of speech. Its located in the left frontal lobe’s lower section.
With reduced hearing, the brain works much harder to interpret the information it’s obtaining from the inner ear. This process can be exhausting for someone with normal hearing when in a loud environment such as a concert hall, place of work, or restaurant. When the person has reduced hearing, it can be much more taxing on the brain and their overall physical health as well. It can include the following symptoms:
- Headache or head pain
- Inability to comprehend what is being said around you
- Inability to concentrate
- Lowered sensitivity
- Tiredness or exhaustion
As they move through their day, someone suffering from listening fatigue may notice they feel more exhausted than they used to. Concentration can become difficult. The normal after-lunch crash will be more noticeable and may have a longer-lasting effect. It’s likely difficult to make any sense out of what others around you are saying.
Phone calls may be harder to comprehend as the day goes on, as well as interactions with multiple people such as in meetings or a learning environment. This exhaustion can lead to frustration and there may be a lack of desire to interact. People often have to get away from the hustle and bustle to recharge.
There is hope though. There are ways to combat this type of fatigue. First off, do yourself a favor and make an appointment for a hearing exam. Your hearing health professional will inform you of any hearing loss and the best options for treatment. They’re available for any questions you may have and to help teach you how to operate and maintain any equipment you may require.
Be sure to utilize hearing devices. It can cut back on the fatigued feeling and allow better comprehension of what’s going on around you. By using hearing aids or cochlear implants, you can retrain your brain to pick up clear and audible sounds in pitches and frequencies it previously had trouble processing.
Take a break and getaway. By getting away from noisy places and just soaking up the quiet, you can give your brain a much-needed rest. Take a walk at lunch or just temporarily relocate your workspace to a quieter office or empty conference room. If that’s not possible, try to minimize the sounds around you with noise-canceling headphones.
Utilize options for FaceTime, Skype, or anyone of the common remote face-to-face meeting options. Being able to see people’s faces and read their lips can give clues that you can’t get from a phone call and may help diminish the fatigue you feel after. When watching TV, be sure to turn on the Closed Caption setting, or even skip the TV and read a book instead.
Help both your body and your brain by doing breathing exercises. They can really help cut back the anxiety that can creep in. Breathe in deeply through the nose and release it slowly out of the mouth several times. This influx of fresh oxygen can both calm the mind as well as gives the body the oxygen it requires.
When nothing else seems to help, cut yourself some slack. Take a hot shower or relaxing bath to release some of the tension throughout your body. This can ease any tight muscles that may be contributing to a headache. The sounds of running water can also be soothing white noise, instead of something you have to focus on. If possible, take a nap, even if it’s just a catnap on your break. Any time you can give your brain to recharge will help fight the feelings of listening fatigue caused by hearing loss.
Be sure to schedule regular checkups with your hearing health professional to stay on top of any changes in your hearing. This will minimize the chances of additional issues with listening fatigue and get you back on track to a full and healthy hearing future.