Listening Takes Continuous Effort


What it’s like to live with the strain of trying to hear and what smart hearing aids can do to reduce listening effort.

Even if you have perfect hearing, listening and processing all the sounds that fill your day music, conversation, phone calls can tire you out by the time evening rolls around.
It takes more effort to listen if you have hearing loss because of the exertion required to hear and understand. This “brain strain” can not only leave you battling chronic fatigue, but takes resources away from other important mental activities like cognition and maintaining balance.

This article includes vignettes to illustrate what it’s like to live with the strain of trying to hear and what smart hearing aids can do to reduce listening effort.

Morning with the family: At breakfast, the kids are excited about the day, and their chatter mingles with music from the radio playing in the background. Your spouse is reading a newspaper. Voices are bouncing around the kitchen, while forks and spoons clink against dishes. When your teenage daughter mumbles (or at least that’s how it sounds to you) a question you have to ask her to repeat it again and again, all the while struggling to hear her over the morning cacophony. The result is both you and your daughter end up frustrated by the interaction.

Conversation at the station: You’re standing on a train platform on the way to the office, surrounded by the hubbub of the rush hour commute. Waiting for your train, muffled loudspeaker announcements are punctuated by the roar of trains passing by chugging engines, sounding whistles, ringing bells. Then a traveler from another country approaches you, asking for directions. Between the noise and their unfamiliar accent, you cannot figure out where they want to go, so you just shrug and shake your head apologetically.

When lunch conversation isn’t a breeze: It’s noon and you’re sitting at a street café enjoying lunch with friends. As the conversation picks up, so does the wind. Meanwhile, a discussion at the next table over is getting heated and traffic is whooshing by only a few feet away. Your friend cracks a joke, but you only catch every other word. Then everyone starts laughing. You awkwardly join in, hoping no one realizes you missed the punch line. Again.

A difficult day at the office: Back at your office after lunch the place is hopping with activity. Co-workers are discussing business to your left and right. The layout of your workplace is an open plan, with far too many hard surfaces off which the sounds of people meeting, phones ringing, and copiers chugging echo and reverberate. You hear something behind you and look over your shoulder to see your boss is standing there with an expectant look on her face. Clearly, she’s waiting for you to respond to something – a question? a directive? – but you didn’t hear a word she said. Now what?

Time to unwind with a little night music: After a stressful day, you’re ready to unwind with some good music. Maybe you’re going to listen at home on your stereo or take the one you love out to a concert. Perhaps you’re the one who is going to play guitar at an open mic event in town. Whether you’re the listener or the performer, you want to be able to enjoy music to its fullest and that means being able to hear every high and low note clearly. In fact, one of the reasons you’ve put off getting the hearing aids you’re pretty sure you need is that you’re concerned they’ll make music sound “tinny” or muffled.

Smart Hearing Aids to the Rescue

So how can the right hearing aids help with all of these scenarios? Advanced hearing aid technology is now available to single out the dominant speaker while also reducing extraneous background sounds and voices. By highlighting the voice of the person you want to hear, listening becomes effortless, even in noisy environments. Hearing aids also narrow in on speech coming from in front of you while attenuating others’ conversations, so you can understand your speaking partner without straining.

As for reverberation, smart hearing aids can soften these reflected sounds. While older devices used to amplify these echoes, now they exclude them for better sound quality and more comfort. Even noises like wind and traffic can be suppressed by your hearing aids’ microphones. Imagine how helpful this is when you’re talking on your cell phone outside and your caller’s voice is transmitted into both hearing aids for improved clarity.

Finally, advanced hearing aids are now capable of providing richer, fuller music experiences and sharper quality than ever, so you can relax and enjoy every note. If you haven’t tried a pair of hearing aids before, or have tried them in the past but were less than thrilled with the results, now is the time to visit a hearing care professional. You’ll never miss another punch line!


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About Author

Leanne Powers, AuD

Leanne Powers is an education specialist for Signia, training customers and staff on products, software, and services, and a frequent speaker at AudiologyNow!

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