A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Choosing Quiet in a Noisy World

In Hearing aids, Hearing Loss on February 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm

No matter how good your hearing aids, there will always be some sound distortion, which is unfortunately directly proportionate to one’s hearing loss.

A pretty good example of this would be my bi-weekly swim class.  I swim unaided.  There are about fifty women in my class.  You can imagine how the locker room sounds afterwards; women chatting, water and hair dryers running, locker doors squeaking open and slamming shut, toilets flushing.   I hear none of that.   I shower, wipe off, get dressed and dry my hair all in relative peace enjoying alternate sensations of the locker room experience—a warm shower, combined smells of body lotion and chlorine, hot air on my scalp.

Finally dried and dressed, I put in my hearing aids.  ACCKK!  NOISE!  PAIN!  Shower water blasts against tile.  A bathing suit drying machine spins into hammering thumps.  Fifty hair dryers sound like jet engines revving to take off.   Metal lockers clang open and shut continuously, as women shout to each other over the din.   I head for the quiet peace of my car as quickly as possible.

It has been six months since I got the Phonak Naidas.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the noise.  While I am extremely grateful for the new clarity in speech understanding, I have to admit many other environmental sounds are unpleasant.   A normal ear miraculously filters out all that unwanted noise.  People with normal hearing might be vaguely aware, but locker room noise is not painful to them.   There are no words to describe what I hear.  The technology that allows me to hear t’s and s’s, called frequency transposition, is relatively new to the human experience.  It is anything but natural.  Nothing can replace natural hearing.

I am mostly happy with my hearing aids, but I’m just as happy to take them off when communicating with other people isn’t crucial.  I have the option to turn on my aids and socialize, or to enjoy the quiet.  All too often I choose quiet.

  1. I love being able to choose peace and quiet. So many environmental sounds are just noise. I can happily live without them.

  2. I am reluctant to admit this, but sometimes I’m thankful I can’t wear hearing aids and don’t have to constantly make a choice between, to wear, or not to wear. I tried the very same hearing aids as Kim, the Phonak Naidas–I got all of the ACCKK! NOISE!! and PAIN, and none of the clarity in speech understanding. I gave them a good go, but came to the same decision I have with all of the other hearing aids I’ve tried–why would I spend several thousands of dollars for more ACCKK, NOISE, and PAIN?? I’m hyper-sensitive to sound without aids, so I experience those things everyday for free!!

  3. Michele,
    I understand. What’s the point if you get no speech clarity? To be honest I’m not sure I would bother if I didn’t have to work with the public.

  4. With my analog hearing aids, I’ve been able to ignore environmental noises by focusing on something else. I’m sure it’s the same strategy that hearing people uses.

    Sure, there are times that I just turn my hearing aids off just because it’s easier that way. I do it when there’s a baby shrieking on the bus or when I’m at the gym that’s playing the radio too loud or where guys are dropping metal plates.

    • Oh how I wish I could just train myself to ignore environmental sounds, to refocus when I’m hearing sounds that I don’t need to hear, but when you are hyper-sensitive to sound it’s extremely painful, so I’m not able to. I wish others, who are trying to learn ways to refocus, much success!!

  5. Screaming babies are really hard to deal with. I’m am trying to learn focusing methods through meditation. Sometimes it’s really difficult, depending on the annoyances.

  6. I usually leave my hearing aids in all the time even when there is a lot of noise. I know the sounds can be overwhelming and I most often can’t hear or understand what anyone says to me in a noisy environment. I do try to avoid noisy situations or place myself in what appears to be the quietest spot in the room if there is one.

  7. Well, I don’t have my hearing aids yet… and I may not ever get them at the rate I’m going, lol. (They are sooo expensive and not covered by insurance, which was a real shocker to me: ignorant hearing person that I used to be!)

    However even without the issue of distortion from hearing aids, I find even trying to hear is a great strain. Trying to pull some kind of sensible sound out of the wall of mush that comes in my one functioning ear is tremendously exhausting. Oddly enough what hearing I do have left seems hypersensitive to me… the fragments of sound I am able to hear often seem excruciatingly loud and annoyingly distorted. So I am learning to find comfort and ease in the quiet in a new way myself. I am really coming to appreciate those folks who don’t have to be chattering during every moment of an interaction- before I would have felt awkward and uncomfortable during the pauses in conversation. I am coming to prefer sitting on the fringes of a gathering, observing rather than being in the thick of things. It’s different but it’s OK. It really is.

    I am a firm believer that God orchestrates every event of our life for our ultimate good… and while outsiders may feel that my hearing loss is a kind of a tragedy, I’m not so sure I agree.

  8. Diane,
    Thanks for commenting. It sounds like you’ve learned to live with the changes deafness has brought. That’s half the battle, I think. 🙂

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