Hearing Loss Hide & Seek

I hear the giggles, the squirms, the muffled “Shhhs,” but the location of these sounds is a mystery. Are my children hiding in the kitchen? The bathroom? One of their bedrooms? I am pretty certain they are on that side of the house, but where precisely is unclear. We are playing hide & seek.

I walk past their hiding spot, and giggles erupt, but I don’t see them. I reverse course and walk right by them again. Hysteria ensues. My hearing loss makes it hard to pinpoint the location of the sound. I think that is their favorite part.

I am happy to play along with their games — they eventually give away their hiding spot when a limb or butt pokes out as they squirm — but in life, difficulty knowing where a sound originates can be a serious issue. Even a dangerous one.

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Sometimes not knowing the location of a sound is just a minor nuisance, like when I am standing in the lobby of an office tower waiting for the elevator to arrive. I hear the “ding” announcing the elevator’s arrival, but is it to the right or the left? I can usually follow the crowd, but if it is just me, I swivel my head back and forth until I find it. No big deal.

Other times, it is more annoying. “Mom, mom, come quick!” she calls, but I don’t know where she is from the sound of her voice. “Where?” I ask. Her reply of, “I’m here,” does not provide the information I need either. Without a more specific location, like “my room” or “the kitchen,” it is hard for me to “come quick!”

More dangerous are things like crossing the the street, or walking in a crowded parking lot, or even strolling in the park. I can’t tell where the loud truck is coming from, or if there is a car pulling out of a parking space to my left. And the bikers that come up from behind in a flash in the park scare me to death! They assume that I have heard them coming and just buzz right by. It makes me cringe to think what would have happened if I had chosen that exact moment to step to the side.

Despite the difficulties, hiding in the house is not an option! Here are my tips for staying safe when out and about, even if you have trouble identifying the location of sounds.

1. Use your eyes. Look once and then look again. And don’t forget to look behind you or around the bend. Your eyes are your best bet for identifying possible hazards.

2. Make sure you have an unobstructed view. When it is cold or windy I like to wear hoods and hats to block the feel and the sound of the wind. But when I get to a street corner, I move the hood out of the way to get a better view. One time I didn’t, and my son had to yank me back to safety.

3. Observe as you go. Be alert to your environment as you walk. Are people slowing down at the street corner or speeding up? Are the walkers in front of you shifting to one side of the path suddenly? These extra clues can help you gather information your ears are missing.

4. Do your research ahead of time. Are you going to a park or walkway where bikers are allowed? See if they have a special lane or area just for pedestrians that might be a more fun place to stroll.

5. Ask your companions for backup. Make sure your friends and family alert you to any strange noises in the area. Hopefully, they are already in the habit of doing that, but it can’t hurt to remind them if you are heading into a more challenging situation than is typical.

Readers, can you tell where sounds originate?

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21 thoughts on “Hearing Loss Hide & Seek

  1. Being in a large city is especially scary. You have to be hyper aware of your surroundings, and it gets tiring. Everyone else is out for a stroll and you’re on overdrive. But the most annoying is the bicyclists with the tiny bells who can’t understand why you don’t move over when they tinkle their little bell. I actually had a biker take the back of my shoe off with his bike on the Brooklyn Bridge – guess he was ringing his bell and I didn’t move over!

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  2. This is very interesting and as you have pointed out – important. As long as I had two HAs going at a reasonable level of performance, I had fairly good directional hearing. As the effectiveness of my left ear declined to nearly zero, my direction finding abilities also suffered.

    Recently I had cochlear implant surgery on the left side. That wiped out any possibility of any sound coming in from that side and for the month before my activation, I was pure monaural. i couldn’t tell where any sound was coming from.

    Now after activation, 5 days ago, I have binaural hearing again but I’m having to wait on my brain to catch up to the new possibilities it has for telling direction. That’s just part of what I am waiting for my brain to do, but that’s another story that’s developing every day.

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  3. This is me! No one understands this. Thank you, so much! Have you written any books?

    Peace be with you, Lisa Stokes

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Thank you for all the tips. I have had similar sound direction issues. I am just three months into wearing my 2 hearing aids for my hearing loss and they have helped me with this quite a bit. I never used to worry about it when I didn’t realise I had hearing loss and pre-diagnosis, but I have to admit it worries me more now. I guess that is down to confidence. Still on a big learning curve I think.

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  5. Interesting and informative article. Thanks for making us aware of the plight of those with hearing difficulties.

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  6. I learned to stand at the far end of the elevator bank so I can see them all (instead of standing in the middle like most people do). The only problem is when the doors close quickly and you can’t make it to the elevator that dinged before the doors close!

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  7. I have a terrible time with this. It is confusing! I particularly don’t like when I can’t tell where emergency vehicles are coming from. They are usually Right behind me before I notice. Anybody got any suggestions on this issue? Does the automotive industry have an add on for this?

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  8. I am just new to this condition and I feel like crying every day. I got hearing aids and am wearing them for the last 2 days but it does not seem to help, I still can not understand when people are talking to me when noise is around. I went to a yoga class today and I kept adjusting the HA trying to find a setting that would work but nothing worked. I am scared that there is no more going out with friends or even be unable to continue my career. I work globally, often on the phone, many accents and this is difficult..
    Any advice?

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    • It takes several weeks / months to get used to wearing hearing aids so your troubles, while very frustrating, are also very normal. Stay positive and keep practicing with the hearing aids. Experiment with different settings and be patient with yourself. Your brain is adapting to the new sounds it is hearing. Wishing you lots of luck.

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