Why would poorer hearing have an impact on our ability to retain information?
The ears are conduits for sound, ensuring that adequate information reaches other areas of the auditory system, to be processed.
An incomplete message received by the ear means that the brain must do more to fill in missing pieces of the message, for meaning. However, there is a cost to the process of ‘playing hearing hangman’ and filling information in – we slow down!
To process information when some of the components are missing, we must use a lot more energy and effort, concentrating. We use the familiarity of the speaker and the topic. We wait for the sentence to end before we can fill in fundamental units of information so that a message becomes whole. Sometimes we may even miss the next thing that is said because we are still working out what was said beforehand!
Audiologist call this “listening effort”. Sometimes a person with hearing loss can still obtain a perfect score when they repeat words that they have heard, but it takes them a lot longer to perform this task. Most people speak at approximately 120 word per minutes, or 2 per second. When listening effort increases and processing slows down, it becomes even less possible to absorb every word that we hear.
Ultimately, when we use more energy on deciphering a message, we have fewer cognitive processes available to store information for later use. Therefore, hearing loss that remains untreated and provides poorer information to the brain, increases listening effort, and subsequently causes poorer memory and attention.
If you find yourself feeling tired during communication, and putting in too much effort to take part, reach out to an Audiologist who can help you reduce listener fatigue and bolster your cognitive processing.