“Welcome to Old Lahaina Luau. Have you visited with us before?” the hostess asked as she led us to our table. “Yes, a few years ago,” my husband replied. “Well, you will notice a big difference. “We just installed a new sound and light system which should really enhance your experience,” she told us. “Super,” my family said in unison.
Except for me. I started digging around in my purse for extra earplugs. Sound systems are only heading in one direction and that is louder! I figured we were going to need them.
The ironic thing about hearing loss is that it often comes with sensitivity to noise. I find loud things very painful. Even things at normal volume can sometimes seem too intense to me, but not to others with more typical hearing. Take the sound of brakes on a bus, or jackhammering at a construction site, or cars honking in traffic. These things seem to bother me more than most people.
Perhaps people are getting immune to all the noise. Loud has become the equivalent to fun in many venues. There are cheering contests at sporting events and deafeningly loud music at weddings and other family celebrations. Not to mention the background music at many restaurants which makes conversation almost impossible. The commotion of city traffic and construction sounds add to the daily barrage of sound we hear each day.
All this noise may be taking a toll on our health. One recent article cites studies showing links between aircraft noise and higher blood pressure, increased risk of heart attacks and even on children’s reading levels and long-term memory. Not to mention our ability to relax. Elevated noise levels have also been associated with higher stress levels.
Back to the luau. My fears were confirmed as the drumming started and the show began. It felt like the narrator was screaming into the microphone, but only because the volume was turned up so high. I switched my hearing aids off, preferring silence over the din, but my family seemed unfazed.
My decibel reader was rocking at 80-85 decibels, so it was not as loud as many sporting events or concert venues, but I found it distasteful. I longed for the luaus of prior years where the performers’ voices and the music from the ukulele and drums drifted like a cool breeze around us, not like a gale force wind blasting everything in its path.
Readers, are you more sensitive than most to loud sounds?