When you have hearing loss, noisy environments are difficult to hear and hold conversations in. Today’s hearing aids help solve this issue, but what about the noisy environments where it’s too loud for your hearing aids?
What do you do when you find yourself in a situation where you want to hear the conversation but if you wear your hearing aids it feels like someone’s playing a trombone directly into your ears? Tricky, no?
Here’s what you can do in environments that are too loud:
Step One: Identify the loudest and quietest spots in your environment. For example, earlier this year I was on a party bus with 20 rowdy adults while 70s music blasted from the overhead speakers. The first thing I did was assess the environment so I could determine the best place to sit. The loudest areas were in the back near the large wall with four speakers, and in any seat with a circular speaker directly overhead. The quieter spots? Any seat towards the front of the bus (where one or no speakers were present).
Step Two: Position yourself to see the most people’s faces. When it’s too loud to use your hearing aids without damaging your ears (aka when the party bus decibel levels reach 105dB and above) place yourself in the spot that is quiet and where you can see the most people. From here, you can do your best to read lips and follow along in the conversation. If you’re lucky, your “quiet” spot might be just quiet enough to use your hearing aids. If you have Halo or Halo 2 hearing aids, I suggest using SoundSpace to help customize your listening experience. (I did this in my first quiet spot and now have a permanent memory entitled “Wine Bus Party, All Parties.” And trust me, it’s quite versatile in loud family party settings.)
Step Three: Protect your hearing above all else. We all want to be the life of the party, but when you have hearing loss, your hearing becomes your most precious commodity. Foam earplugs are easy to carry, disposable and easy to use. I keep a pair in my purse and in my car at all times so that if I find myself in a noisy environment, I can quickly whip them out and still have a great time without worrying whether or not I lost a few more decibels in the process.
NOTE: If you aren’t sure whether or not you should be wearing hearing protection, download the SoundCheck app on your smartphone. It quickly measures the decibel levels of any environment and tells you whether hearing protection is necessary or not.
Step Four: Tell your group you don’t have your hearing aids in. This is probably the most important step of all. Tell whomever you’re with that it’s too loud to use your hearing aids comfortably so they need to remember to speak clearly and directly facing you. By letting your group know you are without your hearing aids, they can figure out how to communicate better with you so nobody misses out on the fun!
NOTE: I often designate a friend or my boyfriend as my go-to-translator when I know a person’s voice will be hard to hear. This helps me be part of the conversation and not miss anything. Also, I can’t say enough for the positives texting can provide in loud, group environments. For example, texting is great to communicate directions or important statements. Shooting out a group text to everyone means nobody feels left out and nothing is missed or confused.