Have you ever walked away from an intense conversation feeling physically exhausted? Do you get tired or annoyed when people leave a noisy TV on in the background all day long? Are you suffering from memory recall problems?
If you are, You may be experiencing listening fatigue. It’s not your fault, and there’s a very biological reason for it. What’s better yet, there’s a solution that you’re going to like!
Why You Feel Depleted After Intense Listening
Listening doesn’t just take place in your ears. When sound waves vibrate the little hairs in the inner ear, those hairs transmit signals to the brain. The brain can then interpret whether you’re listening to dialogue on your favorite show or highway traffic zooming by. These little hairs each have a job to do.
With time and exposure to loud sounds, these tiny hairs can become damaged and die. When they do, they don’t grow back. Instead, the brain must take the signals produced by fewer and fewer hair cells as it tries to decipher what it’s hearing.
The more hair cells that die, the harder the brain has to work. Just like a jogger can wear herself out running a marathon, you can wear your brain out by overworking it.
Where Sound Is Processed in the Brain
Hearing is processed in 3 primary areas of the brain.
- Temporal Lobe — This is the part of your brain that’s just behind your ears. It processes sounds.
- Wernicke’s Area — This may be a part of the brain you’ve never heard of. It’s a section of the temporal lobe that can understand language. It’s located in the left temporal lobe only. The left side of your brain, as you may remember from school, is the more analytical side. It’s where you ponder and figure things out.
- Broca’s Area — This is its counterpart on the right side of the brain. Its job is to produce speech. As you’re comprehending what words mean on the left, on the right you’re planning what to say in response.
These parts of the brain may be very healthy. But if those little hairs in the inner ear are damaged, both sides of your mind have to work harder to both understand sound and to communicate when you couldn’t hear something precisely.
How to Reduce Intense Listening Fatigue
If you’re experiencing listening fatigue, then chances are you have some degree of hearing loss. You should visit an audiologist to find out how to prevent further damage. Additionally, try these temporary solutions to help reduce the stress on your brain.
Give your brain a break. Find opportunities to sit quietly without invasive sounds like loud noises, music, and conversation. Get some earplugs if you live with others. But give your ears and brain a break
Get more oxygen to your brain. Your brain functions better when it’s fueled up with ample oxygen. Do a safe activity to get the oxygen-carrying blood flowing. Take several deep, slow breaths every hour to replenish your supply.
Reduce background noise in your environment. When you’re suffering from hearing loss, sounds become harder to distinguish.
And depending on the extent of your hearing loss, an audiologist may recommend hearing aids or a cochlear implant. A Vanderbilt University study showed that treating the hearing loss could reduce mental fatigue as well as improve memory and language understanding.
Clunky, unsightly hearing aids are a thing of the past. If you think that you may be suffering from listening fatigue caused by hearing loss, it’s time to speak with an audiologist about solutions you’re going to like.