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Hearing loss and listening fatigue

Life’s trials and tribulations can test your endurance and patience, but if you’re more exhausted than you think is appropriate by the end of the day and you’re in good health, it might be time to schedule a hearing evaluation. You may have listening fatigue, a condition caused by the increased effort you’re exerting to listen and understand due to untreated sensorineural hearing loss.

The brain plays an important role in our ability to hear, understand and speak. The sensory hair cells of the inner ear are responsible for translating the noise the outer ear gathers into electrical signals, which they send along the auditory nerve to the brain. Each hair cell is responsible for translating a specific pitch or frequency. When these cells die or are damaged, the auditory system loses the ability to translate that frequency, causing the brain to work harder to process incoming information.

When hearing is normal, these three areas of the brain work with the auditory system to interpret sound and produce speech:

When hearing loss is present, the brain must work harder to make sense of the information it receives from the inner ear, which can be mentally exhausting.

Hearing aids can help

Depending upon the severity of the loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants can improve listening and speech comprehension and effectively decrease listening fatigue.

A 2011 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University tested 16 adults between the ages of 47-69 years of age with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss to see what effect hearing aids would have on listening effort and mental fatigue. The participants’ word recognition, word recall and visual reaction time were tested with and without hearing aids. Results indicated that participants realized better word recall, and their reaction times were significantly faster with hearing aids than without.

If you aren’t hearing as well as you used to and believe you are experiencing listening fatigue, it’s time to have your hearing evaluated by a qualified hearing healthcare professional. Today’s hearing aids can help you hear and communicate effectively, and they just might help you approach life with more energy.