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  • Writer's pictureAdvanced Audiology Assoc.

Are You Trying Too Hard to Hear?

“Listening Effort” Linked to Anxiety

In our society, aging is not as celebrated as it in various other cultures. In the United States, the process of growing older is sometimes accompanied by feelings of embarrassment and fear. Regrettably, this societal bias can lead many individuals to feel self-conscious about aging and reluctant to admit if they are experiencing difficulties with hearing.

Older man with anxiety covers face with hands

The most straightforward tasks can become challenging for people who are straining to hear, whether it involves distinguishing conversations from background noise, such as the TV or the hum of traffic. The brain becomes preoccupied with what it might be missing.

 ChatGPT A cartoon representation of a brain with animated lightning bolts emanating from it, symbolizing cognitive strain.

According to Dr. Frank Lin, a professor of otolaryngology, medicine, mental health and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, this is known as cognitive strain, noting that people with various levels of hearing loss might experience “mental strain and fatigue from the extra effort constantly required to function with reduced hearing.”

When you’re concentrating so hard to fill in the gaps of what your hearing misses, or working to understand unclear speech just to keep up with a conversation, it is no wonder that irritation can set in. 

“There’s something called ‘listening effort.’ It’s how, with hearing loss, you strain to listen and understand,” says Michael Harvey, a psychologist, author and expert in the psychosocial aspects of hearing loss. “

Individuals exerting excessive effort to hear may encounter not only mental fatigue but also physical discomfort, such as headaches and stomachaches. This unconscious struggle, persisting day in and day out, can contribute to heightened stress levels and be correlated with anxiety—a testament to the intricate connection between our auditory well-being and mental health.

Research indicates that even mild hearing impairment is associated with a 32% higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety, while a more substantial hearing impairment amplifies this chance to 59%. Additionally, neglecting to address hearing loss has been linked to an elevated risk of developing dementia.

But there’s good news! If you suspect you are having a hearing problem, Dr. Pfleger and Dr. Fletcher are available help you find the support you need. When hearing is addressed and no longer a stressor, people report feeling a relaxation that they never knew was missing. This just goes to show how important hearing is to overall health. 

Contact one of our offices today to make an appointment:

Yarmouth Port: 508-385-5222

Marstons Mills: 508-539-9780

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