A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Auditory Fatigue/Listener Fatigue

In advocating, Hearing Loss on September 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm

by Chelle Wyatt

I belong to three hearing loss organizations and they each have something I value (SWC is closest to my heart). I love my local HLAA chapter for its face to face meetings. A few weeks ago they had Susan Naidu, an audiologist at the University of Utah talk about auditory fatigue, also called listener fatigue and cognitive energy fatigue. She works with patients in the clinic, trains graduate students to become audiologists and her favorite thing to do is aural rehabilitation therapy. She was happy to talk about auditory fatigue because “it’s a very real phenomenon, it’s a real condition but it’s not discussed much and not researched enough.” It isn’t clinically recognized but many professionals are familiar with it.

Auditory fatigue doesn’t mean people are dumb because they can’t listen, it’s the “energy it takes to fulfill the complexity of listening because listening requires more to go on in your brain in order to comprehend what you’re listening to.” Ian Noon wrote about this in his piece on the Limping Chicken out of the United Kingdom only he called it concentration fatigue. Noon says: “I went to a great conference today. It was riveting and I was hooked on pretty much every word. And then I got home and collapsed on the sofa. I’m not just tired, I’m shattered. I’ve had to turn my ears off to rest in silence and my eyes are burning. I’ve also had about 3 cups of tea just to write this paragraph.”

tired too

Susan introduced us to Kathleen Fuller’s work on hearing loss and cognitive energy. Kathleen asks: “How can audiologists better understand and find ways to counteract the factors underlying why listeners may decide to quit participating in activities because it takes too much effort to listen? How can audiologists help listeners to strategically deploy their available cognitive capacity in situations where it is hard to listen? How can audiologists prevent listeners from avoiding situations and withdrawing from social participation because it is too hard to listen?… It’s said we hear with our ears and listen with our brain now we add when and how much effort we expend during listening in everyday life depends on our motivation to achieve goals and attain rewards of personal and/or social value.”

Listening takes an effort. It’s not only being able to hear but being able to pull all the components together to communicate properly. It’s being able to understand language, generating an appropriate response and being able to keep it going back and forth to make a conversation. Usually people aren’t just listening either, they are multitasking; washing the dishes, walking, watching TV, etc.

For those with hearing loss it takes even more effort. Not only are they taking in the above but they are trying to decode the message. Add in being visually aware to compensate such as speechreading and body language. The mind races to fill in blank spots in words and conversations which involves guess work. The mental process is “I’m not hearing well enough. I have to do something and physically push the brain to listen better.” After an hour (or less) these people are really tired and experience discomfort, pain and numbness.

What makes listening even more difficult? Noise, it’s the number one complaint for those coming into Susan’s clinic. Trying to filter and ignore noise makes listening harder for hearing people and difficult for the hard of hearing. Even with modern technology in hearing aids such as directional microphones and noise reduction programs noise remains a problem. Restaurants are an example, bars and traffic. (Hearing in cars has never been easy!)

What other things become hard with this much cognitive energy being spent? Remembering things get harder because with so much going on in the mind already, it’s hard to find a place to stash the information. People may have a hard time remembering names because there’s more focus to understand what’s being said. While in a meeting they can be so intent on understanding the words as they are being said that half the meeting information is forgotten.

Because of the intense concentration, hard of hearing employees end up taking more days off. The mental stress affects their bodies causing illness among some. Or to balance out, they stay home evenings and weekends to recuperate, avoiding social activity. For those who don’t work, many tend to withdraw because it’s too much work going to that party, the play or lecture. It’s easier to stay home and watch TV with captions. It’s not worth it in the end, the struggle is too much.


Mohan Matthen is studying why some hard of hearing people are more successful at socializing than others. He thinks it might be a pleasure factor. When audiologists diagnose hearing loss and fit people with hearing aids they tend to talk about adverse conditions. What if they talked about positive things instead? If a person can exhibit more pleasure in the role of listening they might be more relaxed and less stressed out. Once it becomes pleasurable their listening effort seems to be reduced. No matter how hard it seems, seek listening enjoyment. Make it fun and shoot for positive because the reward will be “I will understand.”

So what helps combat this fatigue?

Advocating helps a great deal. What do you need to make this meeting better? CART (live captioning)? Sitting closer to the presenter? Assistive listening devices? One speaker at a time? Don’t talk while multitasking? There’s a lot to be said for planning ahead as well. Think about the environment, talk to the event coordinators, find out if the venue has assistive listening devices such as the CaptiView at theaters or live captioned performances. If you’re going to a lecture/workshop/convention, talk to those in charge well in advance to see what might be set. Some people report learning speechreading has helped lighten their fatigue. Visiting with people a few at time instead of large groups. Limit interruptions, have a quiet room to talk to family members at large gatherings. Ask for background noises (music or TV) to be turned down or off. Go outside to eat because break rooms usually have lousy acoustics. Take hearing breaks and read instead of watching TV. Arrange for hand signals when conversation needs to be slowed down or when wanting someone to talk louder. Find out what works for you and advocate for yourself. It’s okay to experiment with it all.


More links on auditory fatigue.

Studies done on prolonged exposure to audio stimulus (for those who want to go deeper). This phenomenon occurs after an extended period of time listening to speech and happens to hearing people as well. Hearing people have more problems than expected which might be related to an auditory processing disorder. Susan said those with hearing loss all have auditory processing disorders.

Richard Gurgel is studying the relationship of hearing loss and dementia. Are individuals with diagnosed mild dementia experiencing decline in auditory processing? Older individuals who have hearing loss but didn’t have hearing aids showed improvements once aided, not just in quality of life but in skills. People were thinking they had dementia when they didn’t.

Starkey on listening fatigue.

Amplification study. Amplification has limited improvement for those with a steep slope high frequency hearing loss.

Susan recommends the LACE (Listening And Communication Enhancement) Program, it improves listening skills.

More publications by Mohan Matthen on hearing loss and displeasure.

2016 SWC Convention: The Welcome Party

In SWC convention, Uncategorized on August 28, 2016 at 11:02 pm

The SayWhatClub convention in Boise, Idaho was held at the Riverside Hotel from August 3-6th; our theme Basque-ing in Boise!  Boise has the largest Basque population in the United States and one of the planned tours was to the Basque Block.

The convention started off with a bang Wednesday evening with the Welcome Party. Many thanks to the hard work by the convention hospitality crew which was made even more special thanks to Cochlear America sponsoring the event. Below is the Cochlear America team who came to our convention.


A lot of thought and preparation went into this event.  One of the things we are particularly proud to feature at our Welcome Part was our program book which went full color this year. SWC member Michele Linder put a lot of research and careful consideration each page. We were proud to display SWC member Joyce Conser’s artwork on the front cover depicting the Boise Capitol Building. A new addition to our program book is the SWC Love page.  As a fundraiser members sent in short messages to printed, similar to yearbooks.  The Okonite Company generously printed the program for us. The whole program is available on the SWC webpages.

The program book came with the traditional SWC tote bag. Many members came together the day before to stuff the bags which featured Idaho Spud candy bars in each! Lots of Boise area information was available inside each bag among other things.

Erica Penn (chair of the convention hospitality committee, pictured below) opened the Welcome Party thanking Cochlear America, sharing convention information and inviting everyone to join the fun. Notice the red beret? In keeping with our theme, those who were a part of the convention committee wore a red, Basque styled beret that night to single them out. People were invited to ask the committee members questions about the con. CART services were provided during any speaking parts of the welcome party thanks to Gayl Hardeman who is very much a part of SWC. There was a nice layout of food including the area specialty, finger steaks.


Then the fun began.

There was a hula hoop contest and were we ever surprised at who stepped up to show off their hooping abilities.

Props were available for taking pictures too which left us with more good memories.

Erica shared her favorite picture from the Welcome Party with her story: One of our long-time members, Maurice posing with a first-time SWC convention attendee, Debbie. They knew each other outside SWC but re-connected in Boise at the Welcome Party! Lovely Maurice is wearing one of the red berets, signifying her as a volunteer for the convention.

Erica 1

Maurice and Debbie

The fun didn’t end with the welcome party. People gathered in the lobby to chat and catch up or got together in rooms. SWCers aren’t the early to bed types, even if workshops started early the next morning.

More convention posts to follow.


In Accommodations for Deaf, advocating, Coping Skills, Life, Uncategorized on August 11, 2016 at 1:43 pm

By: Sara Lundquist

Each summer we have family reunion for my paternal grandfathers side of the family. We had not attended for over a decade until the past 2 years. The reunion is held at a casino. A casino to me is an over stimulus of noise, bright lights, and a major headache. We concentrate so hard to hear and understand that we or myself don’t need these extra distractions. 

Last year was my first year there with children. It had been a very long time since I attended. There were a few people around my age who I was talking to. I had never met these people. I did a horrible job of self advocating. I told no one of my hearing loss. My immediate family of course knew but not anyone else. I was miserable and I really think I kinda made a fool of myself. A few people talked to me with their back turned. I had no idea what they had said, I answered with inappropriate responses. By the look on their faces I made no sense at all. We ended the weekend and I felt like a failure and a fraud. Why couldn’t I be true to myself?  This past year has been one of discovery and meeting others with hearing loss and learning the importance of speaking up for yourself. I ended up contacting a few people from the reunion to tell them of my hearing loss. 

The reunion was held again a month ago. I was looking forward to the time away but kinda dreading the interaction. I knew I could do better. I was going to be true to me. We arrived mid-day took the kids right to the pool. Then one relative I had written was in the pool. I saw her get up and walk up to me and face me as she talked. It was amazing. Why didn’t I say something last year. She asked if that is what I needed. The whole reunion was like this. I spoke up and I had a great time. I even tripled my money at the casino. 

So why do we do the fake nods, answer with generic answers and try to hide. I think we don’t want to seem different.  We don’t want to put people out. In all reality this is crazy everyone want to communicate. They want to be heard and understood. I took that little leap out of my comfort zone. I let people know what I needed and I had a wonderful family reunion. I have learned that this baby steps, and I am getting there. When I look at last year to this year it is completely night and day.