Hearing Impairment and Cognitive Energy: The Framework for Understanding Effortful Listening (FUEL)

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Abstract

The Fifth Eriksholm Workshop on “Hearing Impairment and Cognitive Energy” was convened to develop a consensus among interdisciplinary experts about what is known on the topic, gaps in knowledge, the use of terminology, priorities for future research, and implications for practice. The general term cognitive energy was chosen to facilitate the broadest possible discussion of the topic. It goes back to Titchener (1908) who described the effects of attention on perception; he used the term psychic energy for the notion that limited mental resources can be flexibly allocated among perceptual and mental activities. The workshop focused on three main areas: (1) theories, models, concepts, definitions, and frameworks; (2) methods and measures; and (3) knowledge translation. We defined effort as the deliberate allocation of mental resources to overcome obstacles in goal pursuit when carrying out a task, with listening effort applying more specifically when tasks involve listening. We adapted Kahneman’s seminal (1973) Capacity Model of Attention to listening and proposed a heuristically useful Framework for Understanding Effortful Listening (FUEL). Our FUEL incorporates the well-known relationship between cognitive demand and the supply of cognitive capacity that is the foundation of cognitive theories of attention. Our FUEL also incorporates a motivation dimension based on complementary theories of motivational intensity, adaptive gain control, and optimal performance, fatigue, and pleasure. Using a three-dimensional illustration, we highlight how listening effort depends not only on hearing difficulties and task demands but also on the listener’s motivation to expend mental effort in the challenging situations of everyday life.

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