“Sound” is relative when you have hearing loss
Sound is something that is an absolute. Something that can be quantified and measured in decibels, but when you have hearing loss and rely on an amplifying device to enable you to hear, suddenly, there appears to be no absolute – just your perception of sound.
This is a strange concept to get your head around when you develop hearing loss and begin using hearing aids. We kind of understand that we don’t hear like everyone else, but yet we still might on occasion remark to a family member that they have something (the TV) on ‘too loud.’
“The decibel, dB, is commonly used to quantify sound levels, although it is not a unit of sound, but a unit of pressure. The decibel is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio if a physical quantity to a reference level. It is one tenth of a Bel, which was named after the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.” – Boundless.com
Obviously, everyone who hears perceives sound. Multiple factors go into ‘hearing,’ not least sensory and brain processes, so it’s all about perception. However, when you rely on hearing aids and have a volume control button or remote control for your aids, you control your own perception of sound. It makes it very hard to argue that someone has the television on ‘too loud’ or ‘too quiet’ because these concepts are suddenly only relevant ‘in relation to the volume setting of your devices’ and can you, hand-on-heart say if someone has something on too loud than what’s commonly acceptable?
I ask this question because, after getting my Phonak CROS II and Phonak Audéo V hearing aids I found them great for all day-to-day activities, except one situation: watching movies. I found the volume of loud music or sound effects just too loud and it triggered some really bad tinnitus. I kept complaining to my husband that he had the TV on ‘too loud.'(My experience was so bad that for a few evenings I switched back to my old hearing aids with the ‘speech in noise’ program, to give me some respite from the extra loud sounds.) He said the volume setting was the same as usual, which got me to thinking; wasn’t it more likely that he had the TV on the same volume as always and that it was my perception that had altered?
When I visited my audiologist to have the volume on the Phonak CROS II turned up slightly – to be in balance with the sound coming in on the right – I mentioned the issue of the movie soundtracks and dialogue. Thankfully, he managed to resolve the problem! Within the auto settings, there was one that could be changed from ‘mild’ to ‘moderate,’ which limited how loud ‘loud’ sounds could be, and he was able to adjust this to make loud noises more tolerable.
I also told my audiologist that I missed having volume control. He told me about the Audéo V 90 – it has a volume control and works with my Phonak CROS II. It’s slightly larger than the aid I was trialing (and it takes a larger battery – a 13 rather than a 312) but, despite its increase in size, I still felt that I’d like a volume control, so opted to swap to the larger hearing aid. Now when I feel something is ‘too loud,’ I recognize it might be too loud for me and not for others. I can just turn everything down for me and we can get on with enjoying that movie!
If you are having difficulties with sounds in certain environments, visit your audiologist – you’ll be amazed at what they can do!
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