How concentration fatigue can affect deaf people

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Concentration fatigue, or tiredness is a thing! Simply, it’s when you have to concentrate hard on listening, lipreading or signing for a long period of time, and it tires you out. It’s most common in deaf people as we use our eyes more than our other senses, as they’re also our ears.

Lipreading and sign language are both like jigsaw puzzles, unless you have all the pieces, it won’t be easy to follow and understand what’s being said. Working it out if a piece is missing takes extra concentration and that is also tiring.

Lip pattern/Sign + topic + facial expressions/body language = understanding

Unfortunately, there’s not much awareness about it and people sometimes think it’s mistaken for laziness and ignorance, so I’m hoping this blog may help to spread knowledge about it…

When does it affect people?

For deaf children, it’s most common at school. Listening in assemblies, lessons, after school clubs – it’s a lot of work. When they’re tired it can have an impact on learning potential and grades. The same applies to university students, attending lectures and seminars.

For adults, a working environment can be tiring – having to concentrate on doing the job, alongside communicating with colleagues and going into meetings, it all takes its toll.

When having a conversation, some people like to talk for days! Some waffle and go around the houses before they get to the point they’re trying to make. For deaf people, getting the topic is crucial to understanding the gist of the sentence.

How to manage it…

Take regular breaks

Make sure you/your deaf child takes regular breaks. It may mean more than other people take, but if it allows time to recover and to wake up a little, then will be back to normal concentration levels.

If people question why many breaks are needed, show them articles like these – it shows that other people suffer from it and it’s a side effect that comes with deafness and like other disabilities, considerations like breaks need to be made for them to achieve their full potential.

Get some fresh air

Fresh air is an instant hit. Being stuck in a classroom or office with no air circulation often doesn’t help with the fatigue. It also helps to clear the mind, ready to go back in with fresh thoughts.

Limit the efforts by limiting the subjects

It’s also important to consider what’s best for the child… if they’re studying music or drama which may not be their best suit due to their deafness, could you speak with the school and encourage that subject time to catch up on the more important academic subjects?

If they can’t follow assemblies or meetings, perhaps consider if they need to be in them? Are there other ways around it, by utilising the time to do something more important? Or can they have a notetaker or 1-1 meetings instead?

Take the pressure off

For deaf children, don’t expect them to do chores if they’re tired when home. They need time to relax, switch off and prepare for the next day. If you’re able to, help them get their things ready for the next day, it’s something less for them to worry about.

After a busy day at work, if you’re tired, the best thing to do is relax. If you’re doing chores or extra work, the stress will add up and make you more tired and even can contribute towards headaches. If you can prevent these by sitting back and relaxing, you’ll be more prepared for the next day – rather than a day off sick. The chores can wait until the weekend!

Change the environment

Noisy environments make it almost impossible for deaf people to understand. Limiting background noise and visual distractions make conversation much easier and also easier on the eyes, if they have less to focus on. Choose a small, well-lit room, with carpet flooring over a busy café and they’ll thank you for it!

Get to the point

If you’re having a conversation and you feel it’s going off topic, gently intervene and explain to them ask what they’re trying to say, as lipreading/signing is hard work. Hopefully they’ll think carefully about what they’re saying.

Ask them if they can use visual elements to help demonstrate the point they’re trying to make. Images, videos, diagrams – they all help!

Look into support/assistive devices

Perhaps investing in some technology may help ease the strain of listening at school and work? Devices such as radio aids/microphones/soundfield systems.

If you’re at school, speak to your audiologist or Teacher of the Deaf to see what they can do. There are some organisations who do Technology Test Drives to give you a chance to try before they buy.

If you’re in employment, could you see if you’re eligible for Access to Work? They do an assessment at your workplace and suggest things that may improve working with deafness.

Last note…

All in all, it is a condition but if it’s managed well, it shouldn’t ruin or take over your life. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and starting again fresh. Your body but also productivity will thank you for it.

Any tips you like to share?

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