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Adjusting to new sounds on my college campus

college with hearing loss
Back-to-school looks different this year to everyone. Some students may be going back to in-person, while others will be participating in remote learning. Students, especially those in college, are adjusting to a variety of changes from the COVID-19 pandemic – such as face-masks and social distancing – and even more so if they have hearing loss.

Read more: Covid-19 pandemic hits deaf college students hard

Aside from the changes due to the pandemic, going to college for students with hearing loss often means dealing with new situations and sounds. 
Emmy Cartwright, a Phonak Teen Advisor, shares her experiences as a university student with hearing loss.

Attending University as a Student with Hearing Loss

During my first semester at college, I was in a new environment with people I didn’t know. There were new sounds I hadn’t heard, like bells that rang (as I later found out – hourly to tell the time.) I could hear skateboarders, scooters, and robots going over the sidewalk rhythmically as their wheels passed over the sidewalk cracks. Since a bus stop is behind my dorm, I heard the bus pass by. There were sirens from a variety of vehicles going off and constant sounds of people talking at all hours as they passed by our dorm. And as people moved into my hall, they made noise.

At that time, every noise was unfamiliar, so I thought every noise was important. I was even more hyperaware of my surroundings. I experienced serious listening fatigue. It wasn’t until I figured out what all the new campus sounds were and learned to trust my new alarm systems that I could truly feel rested. It was then that I finally started taking my implant off at times, enjoying quiet time as I’d done nearly daily at home in previous years. 

Read more: My transition to college as a deaf student

Frequency of Sounds

I hadn’t thought about what a new place meant for my comfort as far as hearing goes. I had no idea how many new sounds there would be on campus. Sure, I’d heard skateboards go over sidewalks, but this often? Each time a skateboarder went by, I’d stop to listen as if something more important was going to follow. Buses were constantly stopping and going.

“I had no idea how many new sounds there would be on campus.”

These are all common sounds in society, but for me, they weren’t ones that I heard dozens of times in a single day. I wasn’t able to tune them out at first. Every time the bell rang on the hour, I wondered if it was that hourly bell or if I was missing something because there were other bells indicating something else. 

Adjusting to a new environment

With enough time, I nearly tuned out those sounds. Sometimes I even miss them! Now I can hear a skateboard go by, and I automatically know what the sound is. I also know that there’s no reason to drop everything to listen to it. I know that the buses go by and that the bell goes off, and that people yell as they walk at all hours, however annoying that is!

Read more: How “ears off time” helps with my listening fatigue

But now I know that if I need to, I can take my ears off for quiet time. Typically I have some sort of quiet time each day, whether studying or watching a show. I’m more comfortable taking my ears off in my dorm now that I know what these sounds are and that I’m not missing anything important. I have the security of knowing that I’ll be alerted to the truly important things through the flashing light alert systems that are in place.

Author Details
Emmy is a Phonak Teen Advisory Board member and wears an Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant and Phonak CROS.