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.
The music was blaring. People were covering their ears. I had turned my hearing aids off but could still feel the bass reverberating through my body. Why did anybody think this would be a good setting for a reunion of board members — most of them in their 50s and 60s? I wasn’t sure, but most people were just trying to survive — shouting to one another to be heard or attempting to move to a quieter spot for discussion. Some danced rather than make any attempt at conversation or just focused on eating in silence.
I was miserable. I couldn’t effectively converse with anyone — lipreading can only take you so far, and I kept worrying if the constant noise was further damaging my hearing — even with my hearing aids turned off and acting as earplugs in my ears. I didn’t want to be anti-social or miss the “fun” but I knew I had to get out of there.
I love my Apple Watch. It not only helps me tell the time, it also keeps me connected to the people that I love by alerting me to texts and calls that I might otherwise miss when I don’t hear my phone. It can remind me of upcoming appointments and to stand up every hour to get some exercise. With the recent launch of WatchOS 6, it has a new trick — protecting my hearing.
The newly launched Noise app measures the environmental sounds around you and alerts you when things get dangerously loud. I often pull up a decibel reader app on my phone to measure noise when the background buzz gets to be too much, but with this app — it happens automatically. It doesn’t record or save the sounds, but it does keep the measurement levels, allowing me to revisit my exposure over the past day or week or month via the Health app on my phone. Pretty cool.
Does your hearing loss make you sensitive to loud sounds? My latest article for FindHearing.com, discusses how I handle my sensitivity to noise with the use of noise-cancelling headphones. What solutions have you found? See an excerpt of the piece below.
“We can’t hear you! “Let’s make some noise!” the announcer shouts over the loudspeaker. “Louder! Louder! Louder!” the crowd erupts, yelling in time with the flashing sign on the score board. Everyone is enjoying cheering for the home team. My family happily joins in the ruckus, but I am hunched over covering my ears with discomfort, until I whip out the noise-cancelling headphones I brought for this purpose. Relief. I enjoy attending outdoor sporting events — I just wish they were not so clamorous! Thank goodness I had come prepared this time.
Protecting Your Hearing Should Be Routine
At the sporting event I describe above, the crowd was filled with families of all ages. My handy decibel reader app told me the noise was fluctuating between 80 and 95 decibels. Anything at 85 decibels or greater can cause hearing damage when experienced over an extended period of time. At 100 decibels, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) recommends no more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure.
Almost nobody was wearing hearing protection, save thankfully, for some of the infants. The toddlers and young children had their hands pressed up to their ears or were burying their faces into their parents’ chests. They seemed to instinctually know that it was too loud. The adults seemed unfazed. Perhaps the children’s inner ears are more sensitive or maybe they were simply not embarrassed to find the noise overwhelming.
Click here to continue reading on FindHearing.com.
I am pleased to share my hearing loss story and tips on the newly launched site — FindHearing.com. See an excerpt below.
My left ear has been acting up — increased pressure from seasonal allergies led to excess fluid, making my hearing aid unwearable for a few days until my ear dries out. It is a frustrating situation — I can’t hear on one side so I feel lopsided and out-of the-flow. It is hard to tell where sounds originate and the constant tinnitus in my hearing-aid-less-ear is a nuisance. Thank goodness this situation is only temporary.
Among the many challenges, the worst part is feeling less self-assured. At my yoga studio this morning, I briefly greeted my fellow students, but quickly retreated into a pre-class savasana to avoid conversation. I thought about cancelling lunch with a friend, but decided to fess up about being down one ear today instead. I feel low-energy, shy, and less poised. My self-confidence has taken a dip.