It’s that time of year again, my birthday! Last year at this time, I wrote about hearing birthdays and expected outcomes. As I sat to write this blog, thoughts of parties and celebrations with friends and family conjured up visions of dark rooms, lots of people and loud music. This triggered thoughts about listening in noisy environments, something that is difficult for both children and adults with hearing loss.
When entering a party, a shopping mall, a loud restaurant, or the cafeteria, our ears are bombarded with all sorts of noise. The normal hearing ear does a decent job at sorting through the noise, but even individuals with normal hearing can have a difficult time listening in noise. In noisy environments, we subconsciously move closer to the people with whom we are speaking and watch the mouths of those around us. For those with hearing loss, listening in noise is even more difficult. Hearing aids, BAHAs, and cochlear implants (although continuing to improve), are not yet as sophisticated as the human ear in helping to listen when in the presence of background noise.
There are a variety of things that both adults and parents of children with hearing loss can do to help with listening in any noisy environment. These fall into two different categories: strategies and training. Strategies (both environmental and communication repair) are things you can do in the moment to help with listening in noise. Training is thing you can do to improve your ability to focus on the important message and tune out the unwanted auditory information.
What Can You Do ?
Use the strategies and practice suggestions below to help yourself.
For Parents of Children with Hearing Loss:
Ensure that your children learn these strategies me get some practice listening in noise (when ready). Work with your service providers (TOD, AVT, SLP, etc…) and include these goals in your child’s IEP.
- Move closer—Physically move closer to the person/people with whom you are speaking.
- Select a location which is optimal—Look around the room to find the quietest location. This might be on the outskirts, rather than in the center of the room. Place yourself away from the music/noise source.
- Sit in a circle or U shape—If you are seated at a table, choose a round table, rather than a rectangular table. This allows you to see the faces of everyone.
- Let your communication partners know about your hearing loss—Don’t conceal your hearing loss. People generally want to be helpful but can only help if they are aware.
- Use speech reading cues—Look at the face/mouth of the person who is speaking. There are many clues that you can get from looking at mouth movements and facial expressions that might help you to better understand.
- Ask the person to keep his/her hands down and to look at you—Without realizing it, your communication partner may be looking around or blocking his/her mouth/face from view. Just a simple request or reminder can be helpful.
- Anticipate conversation topics—Think about the guests of the event and their interests in advance and be ready for these topics. Also, catch up on current events.
- Use clarifying questions rather than only asking for a repetition—By letting the speaker know what part of the message you heard or didn’t hear, you can help them to be more specific rather than repeating the same thing again.
- Try different maps/programs on your device—Consult with your audiologist regarding different programs to try in noisy situations. Most of the current technology has capabilities to add programs which are aimed to improving listening in noise.
- Practice listening with noise in the background—In the comfort of your home or a therapeutic session, turn on noise while having conversations.
-Play music in the background
-Put the TV on in the background
-Put on a fan in the background
-Put on multitalker babble in the background (Babel Babble is an app in the App Store).