The concept and impact of noise is different for everyone with hearing loss. It depends on a variety of factors. We all process sound differently or not at all. Some people may only feel minimally affected by noise in their environments while for others it can be extremely overbearing.
Some may think, well, if you have a hearing loss, then noise shouldn’t really be that loud or disturbing. But there’s a lot more to it than that. As deaf and hard of hearing people, even the slightest bit of background noise can be enough to block out a person’s voice who is sitting right next to you at the conversational level of sound. This is because we have a more difficult time processing more than one sound at a time or blocking out the things we don’t need to hear. Additionally, some of us have sensory overload. This is when louder noises in general can just feel overbearing through our hearing aids due to the amplification of certain frequencies.
From the perspective of someone with hearing loss, we may not realize just how loud or soft something is. This is because some sounds that are as low as 47dBs — such as the keys on a keyboard — can actually seem louder to some of us if we’re wearing hearing aids. Others might not even hear the sound at all.
Another example is wind noise, which can actually register up to 90dBs! Wind noise has always been unbearably loud for me, especially in a car. Imagine trying to converse with someone in that car. I have an extremely difficult time hearing over that noise.
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I consider myself to be someone who has easily-triggered sensory overload. What this means for me is that things that involve higher levels of background noise or sound can feel overstimulating or overwhelming. Take a crowded grocery store, for example. The sound of the scanners, people rustling, shopping carts, intercoms, and people talking can be a lot to take in. It can feel like my mind is spinning in 10 different directions trying to find the noise/voice that’s actually important or just trying to block it out all together. This is especially true if I’m shopping with another person. I can’t exactly just turn my hearing aids off and tune out; as I can hardly hear them over all of that noise.
Other examples include places that have multiple sounds, noises, etc. going on at once, and/or that are crowded. Loud music, parties, or concerts are other things that are a bit overbearing to my ears. Sometimes because my ears are so sensitive to louder noises, other people forget that I have hearing loss and can’t hear in some instances too. You can be overstimulated by loud noise, especially if you use amplifying technology, yet still be impacted by hearing loss. This is because amplifying technology doesn’t always make sound clearer, just louder. Additionally, it’s often very dependent on frequencies and environment. Hearing aids can help us hear pretty well in one situation but can be the complete opposite in another.
So for those who are like me and are more sensitive to noise, how can we cope with these every day noises that surround us in a hearing world? There’s no one clear-cut answer or set of coping skills to navigate this challenge as everyone is different. However, here are just a few ways that can help:
Phonak recently unveiled a new hearing aid platform called “Lumity,” which provides a big step forward in speech-understanding in background noise. The new hearing aids include an update to Phonak’s directional microphone technology, StereoZoom, and a new feature called “Speech Sensor,” a 360 degree speech detection algorithm allowing better understanding in conversations.
Others may choose to rely on technology, such as an FM/microphone system that can help direct certain noises. Phonak Roger microphone technology is one solution that provides extra hearing capacities to hearing aid users. Roger is designed to improve hearing in situations with background noise or the distance to the speaker. The microphones function by picking up the voice of the speaker and wirelessly transmitting it to you. This is helpful at home, work, social life and school.
Some people also have capabilities on their phone that allow them to create certain programs like the myPhonak app, which also provides a Hearing Aid Remote Control and Telehealth via Phonak Remote Support.
Others may use written modes of communication in this overwhelming situation. It’s all about finding what works for you.
It’s okay to take a break.
Despite living in an ever-so noisy world, it has taught me that while certain noises can be beautiful, there’s also a lot of beauty in silence and peace. Too often, we get caught up in the noise and chaos of life that we forget to take those few silent moments. Whether you are hearing, hard of hearing, or deaf, I encourage you to take that time for yourself. Give your brain a chance to process all of the sounds of the day that you may not realize you take in.
To the hearing world: Please be mindful that noise to the deaf and hard of hearing community may not be the same as for you. In fact, it’s likely completely different. Never judge another based on their perception or reactions to noise.