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.
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?