In Part 1 of this two-part series about listening fatigue, we learned what listening fatigue is and why it happens. For anyone with hearing loss, listening fatigue is very real and learning how to manage it is important.
Prolonged exposure to auditory and visual stimuli results in digital overload and listening fatigue and can happen to anyone. The extent to which someone experiences listening fatigue differs, but more people are at risk during a new age of hybrid and remote workplaces.
Although everyone runs the risk of fatigue, those with hearing loss are challenged even more so. The severity of a person’s hearing loss can cause them to experience fatigue faster and harder than their hearing peers. While there isn't a way to prevent listening fatigue, you can take steps to minimize both the physical and mental effects.
If you have a demanding day of listening ahead of you, then sleep is your friend.Starting out well-rested is going to serve you well if you have a demanding day of listening planned. A minimum of eight hours is needed for your brain to feel rested and ready to tackle a difficult day.
We hear with our brain, so making sure our brains are well fed and rested is the first and foremost way we can prepare for listening fatigue.
If you know you’re going to be in a challenging listening situation, the best way to prepare is to start early. One thing you can control is the grade and amount of fuel you give your body for peak performance. Eat a mixture of slow carbs such as fruit and vegetables and whole grains, as well as protein. Eating too heavy can make you feel sluggish while eating white flour foods will cause your blood sugar to spike and crash leaving you lethargic.
A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with vegetables and hummus, along with lots of water will give your brain the necessary fuel it needs to stay alert.
3. KEEP TECHNOLOGY ON HAND AND JUICED!
Wearing technology (hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc.) has proven to help combat listening fatigue. Don’t leave home without fresh batteries and/or a way to recharge your devices. If you are using assistive technology, make sure remote mics and back up batteries are juiced up. Most meeting and classrooms have poor acoustics and using additional technology can make a big difference in the ability to hear well. If you’re planning to use a remote microphone, be sure to let the speaker know ahead of time if you want them to wear it during their lecture.
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides for reasonable accommodations in your school, place of employment and other facilities. You can request additional services if it helps you understand and communicate better. Be sure to request special services well in advance of your event because it can sometimes be difficult to book on short notice.
4. MANAGE SCREEN TIME.
If you spend a lot of your day in front of a screen, set an alarm to monitor when you should take a break. Blue light glasses filter out and protect your eyes from screen damage and help with eye fatigue. Giving your eyes an occasional break and using moisturizing eye drops can also help with eye strain. The combination of hearing and vision strain can be a double whammy!
Sometimes we just need to slow down to take in our surroundings. Anxiety can creep up when we get overwhelmed, we’re breathing rapid and shallow causing our sympathetic system to think we’re in a “flight” or “fight” mode. Staying in this mode for any length of time is exhausting on its own.
If you are getting anxious because of the strain of listening, calm yourself down by taking deep, slow breaths. Focus on breathing through your nose and telling yourself “I am calm.”
6. HYDRATE & SNACK.
Bring a bottle of water with you, along with protein snacks like nuts, or healthy bars.Even the least amount of dehydration can affect concentration. Try to stay away from caffeine, alcohol, soda’s, or anything else that may inadvertently dehydrate you. Try to eat healthy snacks instead of those loaded with sugar and/or salt.
All of us rely on facial expressions and intonation to help our brains fill in for what we don’t hear. But for those with hearing loss, relying on speech-reading or facial expressions to help with communication is critical. Make sure the lighting in the room is bright enough where you can see people’s faces clearly.Arrive a little early to check out lighting and place yourself strategically so you can see faces clearly.
You may find that getting up and moving around helps you concentrate. Taking a few short breaks can get blood flowing to your brain and can give you the mental boost you need. Even if you don’t need to use the restroom, get up! Sometimes just getting up and walking out of the room will give you the mental alertness you need.
9. SHUT DOWN.
It’s difficult for anyone to listen for long periods of time, but someone with a hearing loss will struggle more and fatigue faster. Just as you may need an energy break, you may also need a silence break. Giving your brain a moment away from noise may provide a chance to shut down for a minute. Don’t feel bad for taking your technology off while you regain control of your brain. Too much input is exhausting and taking a few minutes to do what you need (e.g. silence, music, nature) will put you back in the driver’s seat and ready to engage.
Don’t forget to advocate for yourself or others around you. If you are trying to listen and there is music playing, don’t hesitate to ask if the music can either be turned down or off. If you need repetition, don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves. At the end of a class or conference, ask for a summary or notes. By advocating for yourself you are also teaching others how to do it for themselves and letting others know it’s ok.