Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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Do you find yourself low on energy, exhausted after a day of busy interactions, whether in a social or work setting? Hearing loss may be the culprit for your exhaustion. Hearing loss and fatigue may seem unrelated, but in reality, they are much more connected than you realize. Fatigue is defined as “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion.” Mental fatigue results from strenuous listening and is often an unfortunate side effect of hearing loss.
Overworking Your Brain
In the workplace, around one in 50% of people with hearing loss reported experiencing chronic mental or physical fatigue. When compared to the rate of fatigue in workers without hearing loss this dropped to around 30%. Having issues with your hearing can be exhausting, making your brain scramble to process incomplete sounds into comprehensible communication.
Hearing loss initiates major changes in the way your body hears sound. Our inner ear is responsible for routing sound information to our auditory cortex where the sounds are recognized and interpreted. When our hearing is compromised, the auditory nerve forges entirely new pathways to the brain. Our mind has to devote extra cognitive function to interpretation and comprehension.
This reorganizing of our mental energy may not seem like a big deal but it takes a toll on our physical resources and can quickly become exhausting. This ongoing use of extra cognitive resources when experiencing hearing loss takes focus away from other functions as basic as balance and coordination. All of this contributes to a rapid depletion of energy and can make daily schedules that once seemed reasonable become strenuous
Cognitive Load and Mental Fatigue
This effort to process and make sense of the auditory snippets you hear is an example of “cognitive load.” working memory, the part of our brain that consciously processes information, dominates everything we do in terms of learning. Working memory can only hold 4-5 bits of information at one time and information in working memory lasts only around ten seconds. With cognitive load, the brain is preoccupied with filling in the blanks, leaving little energy to store and process what has been heard into working memory. These implications are important for anyone with a hearing loss. It makes sense that if you don’t have to spend so much effort filling in those auditory blanks, there would be more cognitive energy left to listen and understand more effortlessly!
Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load
Hearing loss doesn’t have to get in the way of processing all the data presented to you daily. Here are some ways to limit the impact of hearing loss and the associated mental fatigue:
- Take breaks — When you find yourself straining from listening in a social or work environment, take a short break to relax and let your mind rest. Stepping away, tuning out with noise cancelling headphones to reduce overstimulation, and even a short nap are all methods to de-stress and invigorate alertness.
- Meditate — Meditation and locating that calm inside can quiet the stress of effortful listening associated with hearing loss. Meditation is becoming a popular tool for mental and physical wellness. It’s free, can be practiced anywhere, and even a short 5-minute meditation has demonstrated benefits.
- Record and transcribe — For those with hearing loss, listening-intensive endeavors like meetings and lectures can cause stress from the fear of missing important details. There are technologies designed to record or stream such interactions on many smart phones and laptops.
Reduce mental fatigue
When it comes to hearing loss, for many people the most important thing you can do is take a hearing test and get fitted for hearing aids. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience the signs of hearing loss before they decide to take a hearing test. If you suspect you are struggling with hearing loss contact us at Encore Hearing today. If a hearing loss is detected we will work with you to find the best hearing aid to treat your hearing loss. With better access to the sounds of our environment, hearing aids ensure that we no longer strain to hear or struggle to focus on sounds in noisy environments.