The Deaf Community Is All Too Aware of Zoom Fatigue

In the age of Coronavirus, people are staying connected to friends, colleagues and loved ones through digital means such as Facetime, Skype and Zoom. Many are reporting a phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue,” or the feeling of mental and social exhaustion after participating in a video call. This feeling goes by many names and is all too familiar to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

What Causes Zoom Fatigue?

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While we call it Zoom fatigue, many researchers and audiologists have named this feeling “concentration fatigue.”

“It’s not necessarily persistent fatigue but surely a measurable increase in listening effort,” explained Mario Svirsky, professor of hearing science at NYU Langone Health medical center. “A little noise in the background can bring you over a tipping point where communication becomes much more difficult and you have to do a lot of work. You may participate in a meeting focusing on everything for the full two hours and, at the end, you are wiped out.”

Many of the taxing aspects of participating in video calls are just everyday life for the hearing impaired, namely difficulty with nonverbal cues, missing audio and being “on” every moment.

Nonverbal Cues

Bad internet connection can cause video feed to freeze or skip, and many people opt to turn off the camera altogether. Bad lighting can also affect nonverbal cues.

This mirrors the experience of people with hearing loss who rely on visual cues to communicate, but have difficulty in everyday situations such as during meals when people’s mouths are obstructed, in the car when speakers do not face each other or when trying to hold conversations from separate rooms.

Missing Audio

Poor internet can also cause audio to sound choppy, and may feel like you’re only catching every few words. This is normal for people with hearing loss, who report that trying to follow a conversation is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

“If you’re just missing one or two words or a little bit of information, it can have a snowball effect,” said NYU Langone postdoctoral fellow Ariel Hight, who has hearing loss himself. “You can imagine that’s going to affect how well you perform in a meeting or with friends.”

Being “On”

During a Zoom call you may feel like you constantly have to stay focused in order to keep up with the conversation, which can be exhausting. Similarly, people with hearing loss never stop working to process and interpret sound throughout the day, and have to pay close attention to speakers at all times to keep up.

To talk to an audiologist about the effects of concentration fatigue, call the experts at Topeka ENT today.

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