Do you experience listening fatigue?

Dr Sarah Hughes offers practical tips to help manage your listening energy

Did you know planning your day or prioritising activities that require more intensive listening can help you avoid fatigue?

“As a cochlear implant recipient, you may find you are extremely tired by the end of the day. Interestingly, recipients often fail to connect their fatigue with listening and the increased effort needed to ensure listening success,” says Sarah Hughes PhD, a speech language pathologist and expert in listening effort and fatigue.

Dr Sarah Hughes

Dr Hughes is referring to listening effort, a term use to describe the exertion of brain power used to pay attention and understand spoken language.

“As a recipient, it’s important to appreciate that listening effort is a normal part of what it means to listen with a hearing loss,” she says.

“Hearing is something that happens without us being aware of it taking place. Listening, however, is active. It is something we ‘do.’ When listening conditions are favourable this happens easily, and we are not aware of needing to put work into listening.”

However, when conditions are challenging, a listener is required to do the additional mental work to enable them to understand speech, music or identify sounds in the environment.

“If you expect to listen in the same way as hearing family and friends, then you may be putting a lot of added pressure onto yourself,” says Dr Hughes.

“The extra pressure is stressful and can actually be counter-productive. You may be able to listen well for short periods, but over longer periods you can become exhausted and this can quickly lead to fatigue.

“The good news is that recipients tell us, when they make the effort to listen with their cochlear implant, they are able to ‘do more’ and that they feel a greater sense of social connectedness – the feeling of being in close, personal contact with the world around them.”

What you can do

There are a number of things that can help you manage your energy levels and fatigue. Here are some practical tips to get started:

  • Recognise that listening effort is a normal part of living with hearing loss.
  • Schedule breaks when listening is intensive or challenging.
  • Allow yourself downtime and give your brain a break, such as reading, watching TV or meditating. The main thing is to ensure the burden of listening is low.
  • Plan your day to ensure tasks and activities are scheduled when you have the energy.
  • Remember good nutrition and adequate sleep play a role.
  • Take a short break when you find yourself straining from listening.
  • Step away and tune out to reduce stimulation and help to destress and refresh.
  • Prioritise activities – such as family get togethers or social catch ups during the holiday season – to ensure you have enough energy for listening-based activities that are most important to you.

“While it might not always be possible to fully schedule your day around listening, having an awareness that listening effort can impact your fatigue level means you will be more likely to take a break from listening when you can, thus enabling you to be at your best when listening really matters,” says Dr Hughes.

To find out more about listening effort, how to manage your energy for listening and practical tips from other recipients, visit here for rehab resources from Cochlear.

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