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Navigating Noisy Places When You Have Hearing Loss

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As someone with a mild to moderate hearing loss, I find that I often fall in a somewhat isolating position. I don’t feel entirely embraced by the Deaf community, as I’m not able to communicate in and do not know any form of sign language. On the other side, most people I know, including family and friends, aren’t that perceptive of the unique obstacles I face.

One of these obstacles is navigating noisy areas as someone with a hearing loss. By “noisy” areas, I am referring to places where there is a lot of background noise, whether it be at a party with loud music or on a plane. I am sensitive and distracted by loud noises, so I have to find ways of living and enjoying life. While I’m no expert on hearing loss, I have lived with hearing loss for 21 years  – so I do have some tricks and advice. Here are five examples of how to navigate noisy scenarios if you have hearing loss, from me and other people who have written about this topic as well.

1. Airplanes

As I have family members that live on another continent, I have flown for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Noise from the turbulence and the air pressure can make flights a bit difficult. I deal with this by wearing headphones and listening to relaxing music. Shari Eberts, who is also a contributor at The Mighty, also recommends reserving an aisle seat as far away from the engines as possible.

2. Parties

I’ve never been to a party during my university years where loud music was not blasting. This leads me to be in situations where I can’t hear people talking because my hearing aids amplify the music. I’ve managed this by letting people know that I can’t hear them and asking to move to a place where the music is less loud to continue chatting. Most of the time, people are understanding.

3. Sports games

Sports games can be unquestionably loud, thanks to vocally supportive sounds. On one occasion, Seattle Seahawks fans even caused an earthquake from how loud they were being. This can make navigating sports games a bit difficult if you have hearing loss. Yishane Lee, the editor of Hearing Health Magazine, recommends that sports fans “don’t forget a pair of earplugs” if they go to a loud sports event like the Super Bowl in order to protect their hearing.

4. Lectures

If you were or are a university student, there’s a good chance you’ve taken classes in large lecture halls at some point. I have too, and I’ve been distracted by classmates who decide to have conversations at full volume. In order to make sure I can hear my professor, not my classmates, I often sit at the front of the classroom.

5. Restaurants and bars

While going to restaurants and bars can be a fun experience, the noisiness of these places can be distracting. Gregory Scott, who has hearing loss, experienced many situations where he sat at a “restaurant table feeling completely lost in the conversation while others conversed and connected with each other” due to the noise. This is why he developed the app SoundPrint, where users rate and submit noise levels at restaurants, bars and similar places. I have used this app myself, and I have found myself having a more enjoyable time when I go to restaurants where I can hear my friends.

Navigating noisy places with hearing loss may require people to have some skills, tricks, and plans in place in order to have a great time. Hopefully these suggestions are helpful and make traveling, going out, enjoying sports and listening to lectures easier.

Getty image by Jovanmandic.

Originally published: March 11, 2019
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