Preventing listening fatigue this holiday season with tips from Dr. Sarah Hughes


By Sarah E. Hughes B.Sc., M.H.Sc.,Ph.D., Research Fellow, Centre for Patient Reported Outcome Research, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Sarah Hughes

Here are some tips to making sure your patients can be a part of the conversations and moments that they care about the most:

Tips from an expert to manage listening effort during the holidays

As cochlear implant recipients, your patients may find that they are extremely tired by the end of the day. Interestingly, recipients often fail to connect their fatigue with listening and the increased effort needed to ensure listening success.

Listening effort is a term used to describe the exertion of brain power used to pay attention and understand spoken language.

It’s important for recipients to appreciate that listening effort is a part of what it means to listen with a hearing loss. Hearing is something that happens without us being aware of it taking place. Listening, however, is active. It is something we ‘do.’ When listening conditions are favorable this happens easily and we are not aware of the effort involved.

However, when conditions are challenging, such as listening with a hearing loss, a listener is required to do additional mental work to enable them to understand speech, music or identify sounds in the environment.

If recipients expect to listen in the same way as hearing family and friends, they may be putting a lot of added pressure onto themselves. The extra pressure is stressful and can actually be counter-productive. Listening well may be possible in short periods, but over longer periods can become exhausting and can quickly lead to fatigue.

The good news is that recipients tell us when they make the effort to listen with their cochlear implant (s) that they feel a greater sense of social connectedness – the feeling of being in close personal contact with the world around them.

Cochlear™ CoPilot helps with strategies for the holidays

There are a number of strategies that can help manage your recipients’ energy levels for listening. Cochlear CoPilot is a mobile app that features information and insights from experts plus advice from other recipients.

Here are some tips for your patients from Cochlear CoPilot to get started:

  1. Recognize that listening with hearing loss requires effort.
  2. Schedule breaks in advance for times when you know that listening will be intensive or challenging.
  3. Allow yourself downtime to give your brain a listening break. Spend some time doing activities that don’t require you to listen very much – read, exercise, or meditate.
  4. Plan your day so that challenging tasks and activities are scheduled when you have the energy.
  5. Remember that good nutrition and adequate sleep play an important role in managing your energy.
  6. Take a short break when you find yourself straining to listen. This could happen at work, during meetings, social events or even when you are simply tired.
  7. Step away and tune out to reduce stimulation and help to de-stress and refresh.
  8. Prioritize activities that are most important to you during the holiday season such as family get togethers or social events. This will help ensure that you have enough energy for those listening-based activities that are special.

While it might not always be possible to fully schedule the day around upcoming listening demands, having an awareness that listening effort can impact energy level means they will be more likely to take a break from listening when applicable. Planning in advance enables your recipients to be at their best when listening really matters.

To find out more about listening effort, preventing listening fatigue at the holidays and practical tips from other recipients, download Cochlear CoPilot.

About the author: Dr. Hughes is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Patient Reported Outcome Research (CPROR) at the Institute of Applied Health, University of Birmingham in the UK. She received her M.H.Sc in speech-language pathology from the University of Toronto, Canada, and her PhD at Swansea University Medical School, Wales, UK where she was a James Callaghan Scholar whose research focused on the development and validation of a new patient-reported outcome measure of listening effort in adult cochlear implant recipients.  Dr. Hughes has worked on several collaborations with the Australian Hearing Hub and the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, and she is a Core Member of the Adult Rehabilitation Special Interest Group, British Society of Audiology.

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