Hearing Loss: Please Turn Down the Rain

It was pouring! Despite the coverage from our umbrellas, we reached the car soaked. Luckily it was a warm summer day so we were not too cold. We slammed the doors shut and sat in the car recovering. The rain clattered on the roof, banged on the windows, smashing all around us. The sound was deafening. Difficult driving conditions for anyone, but when you have hearing loss, the added battle with the noise can be exhausting. How was I to drive home safely with all this racket?

I considered turning my hearing aids off, but I don’t usually do this while driving, in hopes that my hearing aids will help me pick up ambient noise or at a minimum, a siren from an approaching emergency vehicle. I kept my hearing aids on, plugged my home address into the GPS and headed onto the road. Luckily, it was slow going as the deepening puddles made navigating a challenge for everyone.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Ninety minutes later, I pulled into my driveway with relief and dragged myself into the house. While the sound of the storm had dissipated, it still reverberating like a phantom in my brain. The rain’s rhythmic pounding had triggered a wicked bout of tinnitus and a killer headache. I had guests, but excused myself for some self-care. Thirty minutes of “quiet” in a darkened room followed by a glass of wine brought me back to life.

It is hard to describe the abject weariness that comes from prolonged exposure to too much sound, especially for me, if it is rhythmic like a bathroom fan, the clanging of a bell or the pounding of the rain. It is as if my nerves are being constantly trampled, making it hard to focus or relax. It is similar to the hearing loss exhaustion that comes from a hard day of listening effort, but worse, since it comes with a tinnitus hangover.

This was not the first time the rain had taken a toll on me. When I was in Fiji for my yoga teacher training, there were many rainstorms, some during lectures. The rain clanging atop the metal roof of the yoga studio was overwhelming for everyone. Sometimes, we powered through, but other times, we called it. The sound was too much for all of us, hearing loss or not.

Until someone invents a volume control for the rain, how is a person with hearing loss to battle this element? Here are my thoughts. Please share yours in the comments.

1. Turn down your hearing aids. This made me a little nervous while driving, but perhaps that would have been a better option than suffering through it as I did. I’m not sure I would have been able to hear much over the sound of the rain anyway.

2. Use noise-cancelling headphones. I don’t keep a spare pair in my car, but perhaps it is not the worst idea to bring them along on days that involve a lot of driving. I always bring them with me when traveling by plane, by train or by bus if traveling a long distance. In a pinch, simple earplugs could also have helped.

3. Take breaks. Pulling off at a rest stop mid-trip can ease the journey, providing a break from both the concentration of driving and the unrelenting sound. Taking breaks was what the class in Fiji did, and it helped us maintain our energy for when the storm passed.

4. Share the burden. Let someone else drive part of the way if possible to give your brain a rest. Employ the same strategy when assigning other noisy chores like taking the trash down to a loud compactor room or vacuuming.

4. Mandate recovery time. Take the time you need to rest in darkness and relative silence to bring your body back to a steady state and give your brain a chance to heal. Constant stress takes a toll.

Readers, how do you cope with the sound of the rain?

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38 thoughts on “Hearing Loss: Please Turn Down the Rain

  1. Thank you so much for your blog. So glad I found it. I just started wearing hearing aids 1 1/2 yrs ago. I’m still learning and trying to adjust. There are no instructions on how to deal with everything. I thought I was crazy and just had to deal with the headaches that come and go. And the sound of rain in the car while I’m driving. . .who knew that could be so challenging.

  2. I was coping okay until recently when I had to have my hearing aid adjusted due to a 15% decrease in my functioning ear. Now it is incredibly bothersome. Great tips. Love your blog and writings.!!

    • When I moved to a very large city, where people drive like lunatics, I stopped driving..this has been quite demoralizing for me, because I had driven from the time I wa 17, until age 65.

      Due to the fact that my sound localization is so poor, I realized that, in order to not get side-swiped (or worse) by the scooter whizzing by and cutting me off, I’d better stop driving before I get killed.

      How sad is this?

  3. I guess I am different I love the sound of rain. My aids are setup so that I can understand speech, and I find most of the time that background noise is way low. When I am in my car road noise isn’t a problem, and rain sounds so refreshing to me. But I was born on a farm way back when we did not have AC and the roofs of the old farm houses were metal. And I find that modern hearing aids can be setup to almost kill all unwanted noise, and in doing so will kill a lot of the sounds of nature that I love so much.
    I feel it is all about what we were raised to hear in the environment we live in.

  4. My problem is not with the sound of rain, but wind. My husband LOVES driving with the windows down, but all I hear is whoosh! – for miles! So if I am driving or if we are together in the car, the windows are up and the a/c is on. If he’s in the car by himself, he can open as many darn windows as he wants. This compromise had to be done. Also, thank you for your column. I wish I had access to a forum like this years ago. It would have helped me not feel so alone.

  5. I worry more about getting my hearing aid wet in the rain , than the actual noise . I also find driving on some highways where the surface is non blacktop cement surface , it’s very loud. I definitely turn my HA off when sounds are too loud even though I don’t like to always do that when driving . I’ve endured many hours in too loud places with my HA turned on and paid dearly after . The brain just cannot handle all that unnatural sound for long periods of time . I can imagine hearing people suffer just the same but definitely worse if you also suffer from tinnitus .

  6. I just turned from a cruise. I was tired all the time and went to bed early although I am usually a night owl, After reading this article I realize I had noise fatigue from all the loud music and all the
    other noise on the large ship.

  7. I used to play bridge at a club where the air conditioner/heater was so loud that I couldn’t think to play bridge. My audiologist was not able to adjust hearing aids to decrease this loud constant noise. Has anyone had any success with that?

    • I’m surprised the audiologist could not give you a second (noise) program that you could use to focus the mic forward, toward your partners. Or maybe card-playing would be an occasion to use an ALD, such as a pocket talker or a mic that you would place on the table to pick up only the voices of your table mates.

      • Thank you for your ideas. I have been thinking about getting a Rogers Pen. I wonder what using a Rogers Pen does with the sound of the background noise?

      • A roger pen or other Phonak unidirectional mic is very helpful with noise cancellation.

        Do a search on YouTube

        I use BOSE HEARPHONES,which are fantastic for noise cancellation. Cost only $499

  8. Since my decade as a trucker I habitually carry foam ear plugs in my pockets. They go through the wash just fine. When the ambient noise is rough the foam plugs go in. I can still converse, depending on how deep I shove them in. I’ve worn HA for seven years and wish these could focus on what I’m looking at.

  9. My hearing aids have a setting that “mutes” so to speak a set of pick up receptors so I don’t hear the outside of the car noise quite so much . I also have MS so managing fatigue can be a challenge

  10. Consider hearing aids with multiple settings, which my latest pair of hearing aids are. They have 4 settings, ranging from minimal noise reduction for conversations in quiet settings to heavy noise reduction for crowded situations (which can also be used for outdoor environments or driving automobiles too). This was a must for me after my previous pair only had one setting, which I had programmed to maximize speech clarity, but it also amplified all noise.

    Sometimes, you try each setting in a particular environment, and then stick with the one that is most comfortable where you can still understand speech and music, but reduces ambient noise to a tolerable level.

  11. For BTE wearers, I use Ear Gear. Little fabric sleeves that go over my hearing aids to protect from moisture. I got them for bicycling and found them a wonderful protective solution for all out door activities. An unintended thing was that they also help with wind noise! These are not sleek, fashionable or trendy. Functional and effective only! Sadly, for sudden showers or similar I am left wanting as you discovered! Thanks

    • Sudden rain showers while biking is always a hazard if not prepared. I always keep a small zip loc bag handy in my bike water bottle bag carrier pocket just in case but then that means removing the HA entirely and riding home with no hearing aid on which could be hazardous. Great idea those Ear Gear protectors, definitely going to look into those . Happy Hearing !

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