Listening, Fatigue, and Hearing Loss

When you work your muscles strenuously, they get tired. That’s an easily understood physiological reaction that even young children grasp intuitively. For people with hearing loss, the act of listening requires more effort and exertion than for those with normal hearing, and one of the side effects of hearing impairment is fatigue when faced with common, everyday listening situations. 

Left untreated, a person with hearing loss may spend all their energy simply coping with the demands of a job or a day at school. They may have little left over for home life, hobbies, or entertainment. Hearing under such circumstances can be hard work, as draining as a job that requires heavy physical exertion. 

Bee Pathak and the team at Professional Hearing Aid Service understand the demands of impaired hearing. They help with hearing tests, recommending and fitting assistive devices to make hearing easier and less fatiguing for you.

The role of the brain in hearing

Any sensory system is a complex interaction between your body and brain. When you see something, your eyes don’t deliver images to your brain. Instead, nerves transmit signals which your brain then interprets as images. 

Your ears work the same way. Sounds around you enter your ear and get converted first to mechanical motion, which then stimulates tiny hairs called cilia in the cochlea. Movement of these hairs creates nerve impulses that travel to the brain. 

Three areas in your brain interpret sound, decipher, and create speech. 

The temporal lobe, behind your ears, receives the impulses from your ears and converts signals to what you perceive as sounds. Within this lobe on the left side is Wernicke’s area, and its primary function is comprehending the sounds that make up speech. Broca’s area, located near the bottom of the left frontal lobe, produces the return impulses necessary to produce speech. 

The burden of hearing loss

One type of hearing loss involves damage to the cilia. Each tiny hair is responsible for transmitting a particular frequency. When a hair is damaged, your brain no longer receives information about that frequency. The brain now has to work harder to interpret auditory signals, since it’s missing information. 

Your brain may cope by gathering information from other sensory systems not normally related to hearing. For example, a person with high-frequency hearing loss may not be able to perceive the sound of paper shuffling, that whispery sound created by gentle friction. If the person knows that sound from a previous point in their life before hearing loss, the brain may draw on the memory to translate the sight of paper movement into a sound perception, even though the ears no longer provide auditory information to support the brain. 

While this is a “successful” example of hearing loss compensation, your brain is always reaching for extra data to fill in what your hearing no longer supplies. These demands require extra processing that’s unnecessary for a person with normal hearing. While you aren’t burning energy in the form of muscle movement, you are burning energy in brain processing. 

Just as a computer chip heats up when it’s worked to the limits of its capacity, so too does the brain become fatigued with this extra processing, resulting in the sometimes overwhelming fatigue that hearing-impaired people experience due to the demands of ordinary communication. 

Relieving the strain

Hearing aids can provide several strategies to help you bypass listening fatigue. First, customized amplification can boost those frequencies in decline, or provide overtones that you can still hear. Hearing aids can also block background noise, a distraction that often increases the stress on impaired hearing. 

Listening fatigue is real. Contact Professional Hearing Aid Service today to get started on your solution. Call the office at 703-478-9898, or use the online booking tool now.

You Might Also Enjoy...

What Is Balance Disorder?

Virtually everyone has moments of dizziness, when the line between up and down begins to blur, but such moments usually pass quickly. When dizziness becomes chronic, though, you’ve got a balance disorder, and it could increase your risk of falling.

How to Safely Clean Your Ears and Prevent Wax Buildup

Part of the natural protection system for your ears, earwax usually turns itself over, unnoticeably flushing from your ears during showers or hair washes. Sometimes, though, a backlog can form, plugging your ears and compromising your hearing.

What Causes Ringing in Your Ears?

What are you hearing when there’s nothing there to hear? It could be tinnitus, a condition commonly called “ringing in the ears,” even though it includes other types of sounds. Tinnitus is a symptom of other factors that affect your ears and hearing.

Cerumen Removal for Ear Pain

Earwax blockage is more than a sticky inconvenience. It can cause hearing difficulties, infections, and pain. Medically known as cerumen, clearing an earwax blockage is a job for a medical professional, like your audiologist.

Surprising Benefits of Live Speech Mapping

Hearing loss is, for many, a gradual process that often accompanies getting older. Your brain adapts to these slow changes, and the shock of new hearing aids can be unsettling. Live speech mapping better matches your aids to your hearing.

What to Expect During a Hearing Test

If life sounds more distant, or you struggle to understand voices you’ve known for years, you could be experiencing hearing loss, a common symptom of aging and exposure to loud sounds. A hearing test determines the extent of your loss.