Hearing Loss: When That Noise Was Just the Wind

One of the challenges of hearing loss is understanding and interpreting the noises we hear through our devices. Sometimes the sound is speech, only too fast or too muffled to understand. Other times it is the hum of a refrigerator or the call of a bird we haven’t heard before. One time the doorbell rang on the TV and I rose from my chair to go and open the front door. My family got a kick out of that one. We have to laugh at the inevitable mishearings and misunderstandings — they are just a normal part of living with hearing loss.

But recently there was a noise that nobody could identify. A high-pitched Tink, intermittently breaking the silence of my home. Sometimes it would repeat itself. Tink – pause – Tink Tink. Because my high-pitch hearing is my best, I am sensitive to shrill noises like this. This Tink was driving me crazy.

Every few moments: Tink. Silence. Tink Tink Tink.

A New Addition to My Tinnitus Repertoire?

I feared that this was a new addition to my tinnitus repertoire. Normally my tinnitus sounds like the hum of a fluorescent lightbulb. I am lucky that regular meditation helps me keep it mostly under control. Sometimes my tinnitus takes other forms, usually after prolonged exposure to a repetitive sound like a bathroom fan or heavy rain. Those bouts are harder for me to ignore.

My tinnitus flares up seasonally, worsening in the winter when the temperatures drop. This reaction is fairly common. A 2015 study by European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology found that Google searches for tinnitus spike in the winter. The logical conclusion — more people suffer from tinnitus in colder weather. It seemed reasonable that the approaching polar vortex might be causing a spike in my own tinnitus.

But other people in my family could hear the sound too — so that wasn’t it. I was relieved.

The Search Continued

Even though they could hear it, my family was not bothered by the noise as much as I was. It seemed to fade into the plethora of New York City sounds like sirens and expanding heating pipes. But I couldn’t seem to let it go. I wore noise-cancelling headphones during the day to block it out, but this wasn’t going to work when I was sleeping.

Before bed, we searched and searched. Was it a dying lightbulb? A loose ceiling fixture? The heating unit expanding and contracting? The neighbors upstairs or downstairs? We gave up and turned off the lights to go to sleep.

The first night did not go well. While most people remove their hearing aids to sleep, I do not. I wear extended wear hearing aids for up to eight weeks at a time, in part to block the annoying buzz of my tinnitus by bringing in ambient sounds.

Each time I would drift off to sleep — Tink — I was awakened by the noise.

Hearing Loss Keeps Me Attentive to Unfamiliar Sounds

Why couldn’t I acclimate to the sound — my family had — and move on, like when I go nose blind to a strong odor after a few minutes? I think it is because of my hearing loss.

My body has been trained to jump to attention anytime there is an unexpected sound — just in case it is something important. Because I don’t always know where a sound originates or what it is, I feel the need to attend to it immediately — in case there is danger. It is hard to turn this reflex off, even when I understand the noise is more of a distraction than a hazard.

Mystery Solved

After a few days of frustration, the answer became clear. It was the polar vortex after all — creating the sound of the wind whipping through the A/C units. Thankfully it should only last a few more days.

Readers, does an unexplained sound drive you crazy?

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19 thoughts on “Hearing Loss: When That Noise Was Just the Wind

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So true! Thanks for your comment.

  1. It took a while before I finally tracked down an unexplained click that was picked up by my cochlear implant (not the BTE hearing aid I wear in my other ear). There was a certain regularity about it that made me think it was linked to my house’s mysterious functions. I finally associated it with the heating system, confirmed when I stood next to the thermostat. Click – on. Another click – off.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad you figured it out! Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad you figured it out! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. My husband couldn’t understand why I hate driving with the windows down on a nice day, until I explained the wind was ALL I could hear, cutting out any conversation or music on the radio. So boring. I also wondered why the bathroom faucet sounded like it was dripping when it wasn’t, only to realize the tick, tick, tick was coming from the moving hands of the little alarm clock we have sitting on the sink to keep us, well, sometimes punctual. 🙂

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I don’t think there is a medication that helps. For me, meditation is helpful in controlling the sound — as well as my reaction to it. Thanks for your question.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing that tidbit.

  3. Sue Fagalde Lick – writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.
    Sue Fagalde Lick says:

    I can so identify with this. I can’t tell a phone on TV from a phone in my house, and the heater fan is deafening. I often hear sounds I can’t identify. Thanks for making me feel less alone.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      You are definitely not alone. Thanks for your comment.

  4. alicini89 – I've created this blog to record my adventures while in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand travellIng with my best friend.
    alicini89 says:

    Oh my gosh. I relate to this so much! I have been hearing a sound and I still don’t know what it is but it stops me from falling asleep. It never goes away, I can hear it now.. I thought it was tinnitus too, but I’m fairly sure it is real. It’s like a quiet hairdryer but on permanently arrrgh. I’m debating ear plugs but I worry about making myself more deaf at night when I am most vulnerable!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So frustrating! I hope you figure it out soon!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      LOL! It happens to all of us sometimes I guess. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Btw I worked in psychiatric hospital for many years and there are meds that help with tinnitus from brain damage.If neurologist can’t help than psychiatrist might

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