Listening fatigue means that our brains tire after listening for extended periods of time. Listening fatigue can happen to anyone – from students at lectures; children in classrooms, and adults at work or in meetings – all of us, trying to follow conversation and absorb information. Normally, listening can become tiring because our brains are using multiple cognitive functions simultaneously. For example, if you are in conversation with one person who speaks softly, one person who speaks very fast, and one person with a strong accent, it is likely that you will miss some of the conversation. In the presence of background noise, it is even more difficult to hear the people speaking as each voice needs to be separated from the background before we can understand speech. Normal hearers may still hear most of the conversation, but the remainder that is missed must be filled in using knowledge about the speaker or the topic (contextual cues) as well as non-verbal cues and visual information, to makes sense of it.
People who have hearing loss will have much greater difficulty, because hearing loss reduces the amount of clear sound information reaching the centres of the brain that understand speech, even in quiet. In noisy places, a person with hearing loss must focus far more and work significantly harder to follow the conversation. Much more information must be guessed and filled in compared with someone who has normal hearing. Hearing loss causes increased listening fatigue, frustration and difficulty in all conditions where communication is needed, having an impact on one’s quality of life and personal relationships. Therefore, it is important that a qualified professional helps people with hearing loss to address their access to sound; and teach each person optimum strategies to aid focus, concentration and conversation processing.
If you experience difficulty and listening fatigue in conversation, NOW is a good time to improve your quality of life by contacting a qualified professional for an assessment.