The listening effort required to detect, decode, process, and respond appropriately to audio signals requires the allocation of attentional and cognitive resources.

The more difficult the listening effort is, the more physical, cognitive, and emotional resources are required to understand spoken messages and other auditory signals. 

Fatigue is known to be associated with many medical conditions, drug interactions, and sleep issues. Listening-related fatigue, however, can also be experienced by individuals who budget more resources to listen and understand and is much less understood. People with hearing loss experience listening fatigue much faster than their hearing peers because it takes their bodies and brains more energy to perform everyday auditory tasks.

Listening fatigue is common for anyone who must try harder to listen and understand what is being said. But for those who have hearing loss, tinnitus, auditory processing disorders, language impairments, or those who are second language learners, the amount of energy required is exponentially greater.

Mark Ross, a well-known pediatric audiologist with significant hearing loss made this comment about his own hearing loss, “I can attest to the fatigue caused by prolonged intensive listening in noise through hearing aids. It seemed like the listening efforts were diverting some of my cognitive resources; so much effort was being devoted to getting the signal that I sometimes missed part of the message” (Ross 2012).

Listening fatigue manifests differently in people and most reports describe diverse feelings of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional fatigue. Physical experiences of listening-related fatigue are:


Low energy



Mood changes

Decrease in stamina



The desire for sleep or rest.

While physical symptoms tend to appear more behavioral, emotional aspects of listening fatigue can also be confusing to others. Emotional experiences of listening-related fatigue are:








Feeling left out



The combination of both physical and emotional listening-related fatigue can leave a person with few internal resources left in reserve to work productively, learn well, or be less prone to accidents. Lack of desire to engage in social activities or avoid challenging listening situations is easily misunderstood by others who may not understand the toll listening fatigue has on a person who already struggles to communicate.

Listening fatigue can negatively compromise a person’s quality of life and understanding what it is and how to compensate for it is important