Listening fatigue manifests differently for everybody. I got throbbing headaches in the middle of a lecture as I strained to hear the professor. The ever increasing intensity cut my concentration as I tried to focus on my homework after the lecture. The letters came in and out of focus on the page. Those “hearing headaches” as I like to call them – honestly, they suck. Especially if you are in college and are expected to be productive. Through trial and error, I figured out what helped me combat listening fatigue.
If possible, try not to schedule too many classes back to back. Although most people would recommend avoiding scheduled breaks between lectures to shorten your day on campus, I disagree. If you are prone to listening fatigue, I recommend trying to limit the number of courses that you have in a day. Be mindful of the types of courses that you have back to back or on the same day.
I realized that seminars were the most draining. I am not readily able to attend another class immediately or close after, regardless of the type of class. After a seminar or discussion, I will always either give myself a break or not book any more classes after that. However, the key to combating listening fatigue in a college setting is to recognize what your strengths and weakness are and schedule accordingly.
Be more aware of what time of day your listening fatigue is the strongest or comes on the easiest. If you know that your listening fatigue is the strongest in the late afternoon, try to avoid booking any lectures during that time. If you are consistently tired in that lecture, regardless of the type of course, it will not be beneficial. You might always have more work to do as a result of not being able to function fully in that class. However, it is not always possible to schedule your class to work in your favor. In this case, my other tips may come in handy.
As part of my presentation and distraction technique, I always tried to carry water (or beverage of choice) to class to stay hydrated. The more tired I am, the more susceptible I am to listening fatigue. In addition to staying hydrated and helping me stay awake, this also helped distract from straining by giving me something else to focus on. Another part of the distraction technique is to bring snacks to class or something you can eat between classes. By staying hydrated and making sure I didn’t get too hungry, I gave myself the best chance to ward off listening fatigue for as long as possible. Additionally, I found that when I was in the first stages of getting the hearing headaches, having snacks to munch on or a beverage to sip distracted me a little bit and reenergized me for the next stage in the lecture.
“The more tired I am, the more susceptible I am to listening fatigue.”
Take a quick walk between classes to clear your head. If you have scheduled breaks between your longer classes, this is the perfect opportunity to go for a quick walk outside and grab some fresh air. Even getting outside of a dingy classroom cleared my head a little bit. Then I might also grab a bite on campus or use that break time to study or relax somewhere on campus. This way I was still being productive, but also making sure that I kept listening fatigue at bay for my next class by not focusing on listening too much. In fact, even on the days when I felt really tired, I went to the library and had a 20-minute nap. Just head to a cubicle and rest your head on your folded up arms on top of the desk to quickly recharge your energy. Trust me, you are not a true college student if you have not had a nap on campus, or at the very least, considered having one.
Use assistive listening devices if you have them. This was the easiest way for me to prevent and prolong my energy in class. Whether you use a microphone such as the Roger Select or the Roger Pen, it can help you stay productive in class. On the rare day that I forgot the microphone, I found it extremely difficult to even hear. This resulted in straining so much that hearing headaches arrived much sooner, like within half an hour. In that case, I was pretty much unproductive for the rest of the lecture and only mindlessly typed notes I saw on the screen.
Closed captioning devices are also helpful in avoiding strain. Google Live Transcribe was the most helpful in terms of accuracy and ease. I used this in combination with the Roger Select so that I was still hearing the professor. It is connected to a tablet via Bluetooth, so everything they said was captioned. Used together, they allowed me to remain productive. When I zoned out, I could always scroll back to see what I missed. Contact Accessibility Services to see which option is most beneficial for you.
Remove your “ears,” not literally of course. This is a perfect time to utilize a break. If you have ten minutes to get to your next class, disconnect from the world and take out your hearing aids or cochlear implants. Sometimes I have found that decreased sound or silence is an incredible way to combat listening fatigue. If you feel insecure about being in public with your ears off, find a quiet space on campus.
Even if you make it through class, you still need to be able to go home and do some work if you want to stay on top of your grades. If you are not mindful, it can take you out for the rest of the day. These are the tips that I learned from my three years of college. I hope you can learn from them and incorporate them to make your college experience easier. Best of luck with your studies!