Listening requires work. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be so many relationship books and funny memes about it. Some situations and certain people require an extreme amount of listening energy. So, when you feel that talking to some people drains you, you are not being dramatic.
It’s often said that we hear with our ears but we listen with our brains. That’s so true, but let’s explore what that really means. Of course, the first step is taking in the signals with our ears, but oh my goodness, what follows is elaborate. Our brains, our amazing brains, are processing the information from those signals by running it by our memory and cognition centers AND at the same time, formulating our responses. (Yes, most of us are formulating our responses while the other person is still speaking). All of this happens in a time frame that allows for fluid conversational give-and-take.
It’s amazing and it’s exhausting. Now, imagine living that complex process every single day without the benefit of healthy hearing. When part of the system breaks down due to hearing loss, our cognitive stress increases as compensations are made. Compensations like, intently focusing on the speaker’s mouth for more clues or mentally filling in gaps for words we didn’t quite hear.
The extra exertion needed to make adjustments can lead to symptoms like lack of energy, sadness, irritability and exhaustion. While not a clinically accepted condition yet, many in the hearing healthcare community call it Listening Fatigue. Luckily, hearing aids can provide significant improvements for those suffering from hearing loss, and the fatigue and isolation often associated with it.
Even with hearing aids, certain environments may still be difficult to navigate. Here are simple steps you can take to protect against being overwhelmed by noise.
Tips to Prevent Listening Fatigue
- Take frequent listening breaks by going to a quiet space or turning off your hearing aids.
- Turn off background noises like music or the television.
- Rest or sleep before spending time in a noisy environment.
- At large gatherings, move to a less noisy area and speak with only one or two people at a time.
- Avoid noisy environments when already tired.
- Practice deep breathing and mindfulness. (Mindfulness Tip Sheets)
- Tell others what you need. – “Please, face me when you speak.” or “Please, speak up.”
- Plan ahead for outings at crowded venues like theaters or restaurants:
- Read about the play or show before seeing it
- Find out if the venue has assisted listening devices or captions
- Sit in a quieter area, if there is one
Following these steps may give your ears and brain the support they need to help you enjoy a robust and fulfilling social life. A hearing impairment should not cause you to miss out on the things you love.
If you have untreated hearing loss, schedule a hearing evaluation with us to identify your hearing issue and to develop a custom treatment plan. If you have hearing aids and are still struggling to do what you love, talk to us about adjusting your hearing health plan.