Hearing loss and boredom: What is the relationship?

Dr. Gurjit Singh, a senior research audiologist at Phonak, and Dr. Mark Fenske, a cognitive neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Canada, recently explored this relationship.

One of the best predictors of who gets a hearing aid is how bothersome the hearing loss is.  Typically, this is assessed by the degree of hearing loss as measured with an audiogram.

But is this the right measure?  What’s fascinating is that often, two people are not bothered by the same audiometric loss to the same extent.

For example, we know that people vary naturally in how easily they get bored. So, if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t get bored very easily, maybe a certain level of hearing loss wouldn’t bother you as much in terms of your hearing loss extent. But if you’re a person who gets bored more easily and then suddenly, your sensory input is limited by hearing loss, then you’re going to be bothered by that hearing loss to a greater extent than someone who does not get bored more easily.

What made that question unique for us as researchers was that no one has ever explored this concept of boredom proneness in audiology. My understanding of prior research is that while there has been previous research looking at cognition and fatigue in relation to hearing loss, the idea of boredom has not yet been investigated.

Study results: Correlation between boredom and hearing loss

Dr. Mark Fenske and I decided to explore this relationship. Dr. Fenske, a cognitive neuroscientist, is an expert in cognition and motivation. Also involved in this work was a stellar team consisting of Carolyn Crawford, a graduate student who was project lead and who supervised a group of undergraduate students (Kalisha Ramlackhan, Hannah Brock, Ariella Golden, Sibley Hutchinson, and Brooke Party).

Our study involved close to 2000 participants. The participants, all first-time visitors of audiology clinics aged 50 years or older, had a mild case of hearing loss. The study examined the level of their hearing as well as their tendency to experience boredom.

What we learned was that not all people with a mild loss of hearing are the same.

Some people with mild hearing loss are not really bothered by it, while other people with a similar amount of hearing loss tend to be bothered to a greater extent. What this work uncovered is that this difference in the subjective impact of audiometric loss for a person is predicted by how easily someone gets bored.

Boredom is also highly tied to attention because we all want to be engaged in some sort of satisfying activity. So, when we talk about being engaged with anything — that concerns attention.

Clinical significance of this study

This study shows us that an individual’s boredom levels and difficulties in maintaining attention can be considered as potential personal factors which can be helpful to determine the extent to which hearing loss becomes bothersome for an individual. Such personal factors related to cognition could potentially prompt the likelihood of the person’s decision of whether treatment regarding their hearing loss may prove to be beneficial.

Researchers prove accessibility of the cochlea

Often referred to as a snail shaped structure, the bony cochlea safely encloses our most precious hearing capabilities. Tucked inside are thousands of hair cells that transmit electrical wavelengths to the brain. Once they reach the brain, they are comprehended as the sounds one enjoys. A new study is debunking previously believed notions about accessibility to this part of the ear.

Discovering a Safe Passageway Into the Inner Ear

Though intensely studied, according to Radifah Kabir in an ABP Live article, the cochlea seemed to be inaccessible in years past. However, researchers from across the world came together to disprove this. The team consisted of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, Uppsala University in Sweden, University of Sheffield in UK, University of Nottingham in UK, and Western University in Canada. Using advanced imaging technology, including temporal bone models, the researchers had exciting results.

Their published paper can be found in the Scientific Reports Journal, titled, “Unlocking the human inner ear for therapeutic intervention.” The sponsor of this study is Rinri Therapeutics, a group whose mission is discovering regenerative cell therapy to restore hearing. They found that the pathway into the cochlea is known as the Rosenthal’s canal. Rosenthal’s canal has a diameter of .1 to .05 mm. Inside this canal are auditory neurons. As one can imagine, this is an extremely tiny passageway. Although small in size, the team discovered that this canal may hold the secret to realistic access to the inner ear. With this newfound, safe access, researchers throughout the globe are encouraged to continue looking into gene therapies and regeneration possibilities.

With this newfound, safe access, researchers throughout the globe are encouraged to continue looking into gene therapies and regeneration possibilities.

Read more: How the Cochlea Contributes to Hearing


How did the researchers analyze such a narrow opening? How was safety considered? Researchers started by using specialized imaging technology called synchrotron radiation phase-contrast imaging (SR-PCl). This SR-PCl allows for the high-definition images to distinguish the edges of the soft tissue more accurately from the bone.

To assess safety, computer vision technology enabled the researchers to visualize the blood vessels and nerve pathways. This specialized technology enabled the team to gauge the risk of potential harm. These imaging studies allowed them to create an anatomically correct human inner ear. The fine-tuned accuracy of these imaging tools has enabled researchers and physicians to better understand the structure of the inner ear. Research and clinical practices continue to advance.

Read more: Unlocking the human inner ear for therapeutic intervention

Implications of This Research

Sensorineural hearing loss is steadily on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that about 700 million people will have hearing loss by 2050. Additionally, hearing loss can be caused by a variety factors including genetics, congenital conditions, infections, listening to loud sounds, etc. Due to the high prediction of increased hearing damage, there are goals to better both hearing technology and cell regeneration therapies.

This latest research is valuable as it shows an applicable access point of the cochlea. In a News Medical Life Sciences article, Professor Marcelo Rivolta explains why this is such a big deal: “Until now this region of the inner ear has been inaccessible in humans. This means that the pioneering advanced therapies to repair the auditory nerve, which have already proved successful in animal models, have been hampered by limited anatomical knowledge and the lack of a safe access to Rosenthal’s canal – the compartment that houses the auditory neurons within the central core of the cochlea.”

How to address your hearing loss at school

As summer winds to a close, students are returning to the classroom. Starting a new school year can be difficult, with different environments, classmates, and teachers. Here are a few ways to address your hearing loss at school and make the transition easier!


Send an Email Introduction

A convenient way to address your hearing loss at school is to let your teachers know through an email. If you have an IEP or 504 plan, they will receive information about your accommodations before school starts. However, it is a good idea to reach out directly as well. Make sure you do this well in advance of the first day.

Start the email with a brief introduction. This is also a great chance to start a conversation with your teacher. Explain your hearing loss and some strategies you employ. Mention what hearing devices you use. This is especially important if they are devices that the teacher or other students need to wear or pass around. You can directly list accommodations you find helpful. Some examples include:

  • Preferential seating near the front of the class
  • Extended time on tests or quizzes
  • Captioning on videos shown in class
  • Written instructions on classwork and homework

Think about modifications in other classrooms you have made and incorporate them in the email. At the end of the email, thank them and sign off with your name and class.

Watch: A Back to School message from Phonak 

Utilize Office Hours

If you don’t feel comfortable cold emailing your teachers before the start of school, there are other options. If you have a resource room teacher, enlist their help. Or set up an in person meeting. Better yet, send an introductory email and follow up after the first week of school, either by email or in person.

Take the first week of school to adjust to your new environment. Make notes about any difficulties you encounter and figure out what, if anything, you still need. If you want to discuss this list in person, set up an appointment or visit during office hours.

Be Upfront About Your Hearing Loss

On the first day of school, many teachers will use icebreakers to allow students to get acquainted. A great way to let your classmates know about your hearing loss is to incorporate it in the icebreaker if possible. Your hearing loss can be integrated as a fun fact about yourself. Or if everyone introduces themselves, give a quick description when it’s your turn. That way you don’t have to worry about getting weird looks about any of your accommodations or having to repeat the same information to individual classmates. They might even offer to help once they know!

“A great way to let your classmates know about your hearing loss is to incorporate it in the icebreaker if possible.”

You could even give a presentation for your classmates (this might be easier in elementary school).

Phonak has provided Powerpoint presentation templates that make it easy to explain hearing loss at school. There is a Powerpoint for elementary-age students and middle-and-high school students. The presentations can help explain your hearing loss, display your devices, and talk about your needs.

Read more: These PowerPoint presentations make it easy to explain hearing loss at school

Display Your Hearing Devices Proudly

Another handy method to signal your hearing loss is to display the hearing devices you use. When starting a new school year, I purposefully wear my hair in a ponytail so my hearing aids are clearly visible. It is a great conversation starter. It also lets those around me know without my having to announce it out loud.

Read more: SweetHearts’ braids makes hearing aids shine

Advocate for Yourself

Advocating for yourself is a must. It might be difficult in the beginning in a new environment with unfamiliar people. But it pays off in the long term. If you need certain accommodations, have them implemented as early on as possible. This makes it easier for your peers and teachers to adjust to as well.

Read more: Teens with hearing loss: How to be an advocate for your education

Always keep in mind that everyone is ready to help out! Most teachers have had students with special needs in their classes. The hardest part is taking the first step to reach out.

Deaflympics athlete Boon Wei Ying

Deaflympics athlete Boon Wei Ying has been awarded several medals at the Deaflympics by performing in her favorite sport of badminton.

Badminton Background

Now 27 years old, Deaflympics athlete Boon Wei Ying was interested in playing badminton at the age of eight. Though a challenging sport, she finds happiness in the game. “I find badminton interesting and exciting because it requires the coordination of our body and mind during the games,” she says.

“I find badminton interesting and exciting because it requires the coordination of our body and mind during the games.”

It was Wei Ying‘s audiologist who brought to her attention that badminton was a popular sport among deaf athletes. He introduced her to another deaf badminton player around that time. This led her to play in her first national championship in 2015, through the Federal Territory Deaf Sports Association. From this experience, Wei Ying learned about other deaf athletic championships – the Asia Pacific Deaf Games/Championship, World Deaf Championship, and Deaflympics.

She won her first ever national prize in 2015. She then was selected to be on the Malaysia badminton team for Asia Pacific Deaf Games in Taoyuan, Taiwan 2015. Her next stop was in Samsun, Turkey in 2017, where she competed successfully. In 2022, she competed in Caxias do Sul, Rio and added more medals to her collection.

Competing in both singles and doubles matches, she has performed well. In the 2017 Summer Deaflympics, she was awarded a silver medal. In the 2022 Summer Deaflympics, she won gold, silver, and bronze medals. For 21 years, Malaysians hadn’t won a gold medal in badminton Deaflympics until she brought home the gold.


Wei Ying fits in her training for badminton in after work and during the days she has off. Her typical day starts with working 9 am to 6 pm. Then she finishes her evening by training from 7 pm to 9 pm. Wei Ying is grateful for her friends and family. From treating her to delicious food after a tournament to giving her words of affirmation, she feels uplifted by those in her life. “They always support me unconditionally, especially whenever I lack confidence,” she says. “They will talk to me, motivate, and encourage me.”

A graduate of the University of Malaya, Wei Ying earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sports Science. In her spare time, she likes to watch television or movies. Unsurprisingly, her absolute favorite hobby to participate in is badminton, which she plays with her family and friends.

Read more: Deaflympics Gold medalist Ashley Derrington

Wei Ying’s Hearing Loss Story

Wei Ying’s story of hearing loss begins in high school when she was close to 15 years of age. Her teacher recognized she was lacking full attention in class and wasn’t answering when asked a question. This sparked the teacher to be curious if something was up. Wei Ying’s family noticed similar trends at home. That prodded her father to recommend a hearing evaluation. This is when they found out Wei Ying had hearing loss and needed hearing aids.

As a young adult who learned about her recent onset of hearing loss, Wei Ying had to find self-acceptance.  “At the beginning, I was very reluctant to tell my friends that I was diagnosed with hearing loss, worrying that they would unfriend or discriminate against me,” she says. “Fortunately, they accepted it, motivate and encourage me a lot, which I think that helped me a lot.” It helps that her family and friends were patient when she asked them to repeat things.

Wei Ying has upheld a positive perspective in life that encourages others to succeed. “I’ve learned that we must appreciate what we have in our life, and we should not give up easily on any challenges,” she says. “Besides, the support and encouragement from people around us plays a very important role in helping us to overcome any challenges.”

The Best Inventions of 2022 – Phonak Audéo Fit

Hearing aids are often stigmatized as a device for the old or infirm. But the latest hearing aids are anything but old–fashioned: they’re teched out with AI, fitness trackers, streaming capability, and more. Now Phonak is out with the first commercially available hearing aid with a heart-rate sensor. Audéo Fit’s receiver-in-canal device tracks fitness data, such as steps, activity level, and distance walked, while also monitoring the wearer’s heart rate when paired with the MyPhonak app. Currently available through licensed hearing–care providers, Audéo Fit pairs with up to eight Bluetooth devices, including smartphones and TVs.

One of Phonak’s most innovative designs, the Audéo Fit goes beyond hearing improvement and brings a more holistic health functionality to your hearing aids.

  • Build healthy habits by tracking distance and steps, activity levels, average wearing time, and heart rate in the myPhonak app*
  • Connect to smartphones, TV, Roger™ devices, and more with Bluetooth® connectivity
  • Unrivaled sound quality**, crisp natural sound, and brilliant speech understanding
  • Includes two performance levels to best suit your lifestyle needs: Premium (P90) and Advanced (P70)

Benefits of health data tracking*

Tracking physical activity can motivate you to engage more with your health. When Audéo Fit is paired with the myPhonak app, it can track and display your live heart rate, resting heart rate, and an overview of your heart rate on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.* Lower resting heart rate is linked to better health over the long-term.

When paired with the myPhonak app, Audéo Fit enables fitness tracking at your fingertips by tracking activities such as:
  • Heart rate
  • Steps taken and distance walked or ran
  • Customizable goals