Listener fatigue

Wearing hearing aids for the first time can be tiring. Here’s why and what to do about it.

Most people who first wear hearing aids will go through a short phase of listener fatigue. Listener fatigue is just what it sounds like — where you feel tired or drained from listening with your hearing aids. Here’s why that can happen.

Your auditory system — having been deprived of regular stimulus for so long — is suddenly bombarded with all the new sounds you’re hearing, thanks to the hearing aids. Initially, this bombardment can cause sensory overload, as it overstimulates your ears and brain.

Until you get used to it, this overstimulation can be mentally and physically exhausting. The good news is listener fatigue should go away after a while — and there are things you can do to help reduce it:

  • Gradually increase the amount of time that you are wearing your hearing aids. Of course wearing them as much as you can will help you get used to them faster, but sometimes a gradual schedule can help.
  • Wear them maybe 5–6 hours a day at first and then increase the amount of time you’re using them over the first 2 weeks until you are wearing them a full 12+ hours a day.
  • Take a sound break. If sounds are overwhelming you, take a short break from the stimulation. Remove your hearing aids and find a quiet activity such as a nature walk or reading a book to give your ears a break from having to work to listen.
  • If all the new sound stimulation is leaving you overwhelmed, stressed or frustrated, spend a few minutes doing some deep breathing exercises or meditation to help you relax and reduce the feelings of stress.
  • Try to limit interruptions and background noises that can make hearing hard even with your hearing aids. For instance, put your phone on silent, ask others to turn down their music, or remove yourself from an area where there is a lot of conversation.
  • Take a power nap to help your performance and to feel more alert. This will also provide the benefit of a little extra quiet time.