What is Listening Fatigue?

Have you ever wondered why you can feel mentally tired or drained after a long conversation? It doesn’t seem like you should be tired yet you are.

You might be experiencing listening fatigue.

This week, we will be talking about what listening fatigue is, what its causes are, and how to reduce its occurrence.

What Causes Listening Fatigue

Put simply, listening fatigue is caused by expending a lot of effort on hearing. There is a lot of energy used by the brain in order to perceive and understand sounds in our environments. In talking about the predictors of listening fatigue, researchers noted that “successful and effortless listening relies on both the fidelity of the incoming signal (e.g., speech) and the sensory and cognitive profile of the listener.” 

If either of these things is off, more effort needs to be expended by the listener and the easier it is to get exhausted.

For instance, if you are in a noisy environment, it may require a majority of your attention and cognitive resources just to keep up with the conversation. This prolonged concentrated effort can leave you feeling tired, exhausted, and sometimes anxious.

There is very little empirical research that’s been done around listening fatigue as much of it relies on self-reported, anecdotal data. 

While listening fatigue can happen to anyone, hearing loss can make this problem occur more frequently as more effort needs to be expended.

Listening Fatigue and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss and age were found to be two strong predictors of the occurrence of listening fatigue. 

As we’ve talked about before on this blog, hearing loss isn’t just the inability to hear, it makes day-to-day life more difficult. This can mean everything from compromising work performance and negatively affecting one’s quality of life.

Research has shown that hearing aids can be an immense help in reducing the level of effort required to hear. 

In one study, they found that participants were significantly faster in giving correct answers when using hearing aids compared to the group that wasn't, which according to the researchers, “suggesting a decrease in listening effort when listening aided.”

How to Prevent Listening fatigue

While hearing aids can reduce the occurrence of listening fatigue, they are not a cure-all. Mark Ross, a pediatric audiologist said of his own experiences that “I can attest to the fatigue caused by prolonged intensive listening to noise through hearing aids.”

He went on to say that “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”

If you find that even with hearing aids you’re experiencing listening fatigue frequently, here are some strategies we suggest:

  • Take breaks - if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a short reprieve from the conversation and give your mind a break
  • Try to control your environment - reducing background noise and adjusting the noise of other things in the environment (radios, tvs, etc) when possible can help make listening less effortful
  • Take a nap - a quick power nap can be just the thing to recharge your mental reserves


Hearing aids aren’t just boosting sounds. They help by reducing the amount of energy and concentration required to hear clearly.

If you or someone you know may have hearing loss, book an appointment with one of Vibe’s partner audiologists today!


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