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Expert Advice: ‘Why Can’t I Focus When I’m on the Phone?’

Surprisingly, it might not be brain fog.

We all experience a lack of focus when we’re trying to do something we don’t want to do. (Ever felt bored when a friend is telling a long-winded story?) But at what point is daydreaming abnormal? Since it’s such a common and vague symptom, it’s hard to figure out whether something else might be amiss. However, there’s one simple, surprising test that you should try, just to rule it out: a hearing test.

Don’t ignore this advice! While it’s tempting to think, “I’m too young for hearing loss,” people in their 30s and 40s are often diagnosed with it. In fact, one in five people in their 20s already have hearing loss. Learn more about it, and find out what to do, by reading the below response from our expert, Dr. Heather Moday.

Meet our expert.

Heather Moday, MD, is director of the Moday Center in Philadelphia. She is board-certified in allergy and immunology, as well as integrative and holistic medicine. You can follow her on Instagram (@theimmunitymd), where she shares information on health topics. And to ask her a question here, send an email to

Why It’s Hard to Concentrate On the Phone

Q: I talk on the phone a lot for work and have been struggling to focus while doing so, but I don’t have trouble concentrating when I’m doing other things. What could be causing this?  

A: It’s possible you have slight hearing loss. Even minor hearing loss can hinder your ability to focus since your brain has to work harder to hear, comprehend, and store information.  

Fortunately, there are easy ways to improve your hearing. First, I suggest a listening exercise that you can do throughout the day. To do: Turn on music and try to tune in to the melody of one instrument in the song, like a piano. Northwestern University scientists say doing so can improve hearing by as much as 65 percent, as it trains the brain to focus on one sound. 

Also smart: Hold your phone to your right ear as you chat. Sounds from the right ear are processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech and language. Research in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that listening with the right ear improved participants’ hearing by up to 40 percent.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.

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