Zackary Arthur
How my hearing loss helps my acting
August 1, 2019
driving with hearing loss
Learning to drive in my 50s with hearing loss
August 5, 2019

How “ears off time” helps with my listening fatigue

listening fatigue
I was born profoundly deaf and implanted at the age of 13 months. As a result, there are times where I only know the world of sound. I never thought about taking my devices off and embracing silent time with my “ears off.”

I never thought it an option to take my implant off during the day. My implant only came off if I was about to go to bed or if I was taking a nap, otherwise, sound was always on. It wasn’t until high school that it dawned on me that I can take my ears off during the day, helping with my listening fatigue. When this realization came to light I may have taken advantage of it too much, like I was making up for lost time. Then I learned how I could better manage and schedule my “ears off time”, as I like to call it.

What does it mean to have my ears off?

So what exactly is “ears off time?” In some ways, it’s the equivalent of “me time”. It’s a period of time where I take off all my hearing devices and I am in my natural world of silence. Typically, during this time I am also doing other activities such as homework, cleaning, or my favorite, watching TV.

I’ve had people ask me how you can watch TV with no sound. Easy! I use closed captions. I turn off the sound, put on captions, and watch the show. Usually, I can hear the characters voices in my head, so as I see different people talking, I can hear their own voice as I read the captions!

And why is this time necessary? If you are hearing, have you ever been in a room full of people where there are multiple TVs on, music playing, dozens of conversations overlapping, kids screaming, someone is rhythmically tapping, game sounds playing from a tablet, a phone ringing… all while trying to carry on a conversation with someone a foot away from you? All the noise can make it difficult to hear, but there is more to it than just listening.

I am trying to focus on this one person but I don’t want to drown out any background noise because all noise can be important.

What if someone calls my name? What if my phone rings? Or what if someone is trying to get my attention? Even if I use a Roger system to help me hear that one person, I am still visually aware of everything around me which makes up for the sound. I can see the TVs, I can feel the music, see the conversations, and the kids, and believe me, I can see that tapping, and the tablets, and the phones lighting up as they ring (often noticing it before it’s picked up). I notice all of it because I’m used to living in a world where even if I don’t need to, I use visual cues to fill in for what I think I’m missing audibly.

If my ears are on too long, listening fatigue can be worse

Therefore, listening fatigue occurs. It is exhausting! I’m sure it’s exhausting for those who aren’t deaf/hard of hearing too, but possibly more so for those who are.

View this post on Instagram

Listening fatigue – it is very real. Long days or in general, days filled constant sound I have to pay attention to can exhaust me. The worst are things like pep assembly’s at school (honestly, I take my ears off during those now). With listening fatigue, when it gets too overwhelming, I’m often sitting there trying my hardest not to cry and loose it. Because in those moments it’s like I can suddenly hear everything and it’s all louder too. When this happens I will make sure to take some quiet time for myself. I take my ears off, and I don’t necessarily have to wind down and take it easy- I’ll continue my day just without my ears. That alone is a huge help! It doesn’t matter where I am, at home or at school, I’ll still take the quiet time if it’s what I need. It wasn’t until the last few years that I really realized that it’s okay for me to take my ears off. I always believed I needed to keep them on at all times to hear everything. Because everyone around me was hearing all the time, I needed to be too. Sometimes the world of quiet that I was born into is what saves me at the end of a day. #phonak #phonakteens #phonakteenadvisor #advancedbionics #listeningfatigue

A post shared by Emmy (@phabulous_ears) on

Minimizing the time in a world of sound helps to be able to thrive better in these situations; makes it more bearable. So oftentimes I’ll set aside some time in the day to have ears off time. Watch a show, read a book, clean, anything. And when I do find myself in a situation where I am socializing and in a loud environment, you will often find me with my ears off for a period of time when I get home – it’s my way of recovering faster with the listening fatigue!

Read more: What You Should Know About Concentration Fatigue

Looking back, I don’t know how I went all those years prior to high school never having this ears off time, but now it’s essential to me. It’s a rare one if ears off time is not a part of my day!

Do you take your devices off to enjoy the silence?

Author Details
Emmy is a Phonak Teen Advisory Board member and wears an Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant and Phonak CROS.