What’s That Noise in My House?

Answer me this:  in one house, why do three TVs have to be on at the same time?  On the same station. With the sound on.  Loudly.

Right now, in our house, the answer would be that the race is on to the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs. My stepson plays for one of the teams, and, at this point, every game is important. So it’s crucial, you see, that no matter where they are in the house, my husband and son have instant access to either the game or breaking sports news. Otherwise they panic. Yes, they could park their respective butts and watch the game all the way through, but we are a fluid family, constantly moving or shifting – to get a drink, check on things, use the facilities, do something during commercials.

And because of this, we also engage in multi-floor conversations that are supposed to be taboo in a family living with hearing loss.

Hearing Husband:  (Disembodied voice floats up from somewhere)  Ho-on-ey?
Me:      Wha-aa-at?
HH:      (silence)
Me:      (standing up) Whhaaa-aat?  
Convinced he’s dying of a heart attack and that was perhaps his last gasp, I run from my office into the bedroom down the hall where TV#1 spews out the hockey game. No husband.
Me:      (bellowing) Where are you, where, WHERE?
HH:      Smplghp….mglpmph
The  sound is faint, but proof he’s still alive.  Injured, maybe. I run down to the kitchen on the next level where TV#2 is also showing the hockey game.  One of the cats is banging its metal dish against the wall, but still no husband.
Me:      Where ARE you, Doug? I can’t tell
I run – and I mean run – down to the next lower level, the family room, where the hockey game is on in high def. The Hearing Husband is on the couch, watching. As I fling myself into his sight line, he looks up and, after a moment, recognizes me.
Me:     (panting) Did you call? What’s the matter? You alright?
HH:     (trying to look around me at the TV) Yeah, honey,  just wanted to know where you were and what you were doing.
Me:      (trying to speak over the TV volume) But obviously not enough to, like, get up and come find me.
HH:     What? Oh, we’re up two-nothing!

 

After that incident, which was followed by a half hour of the Silent Treatment, we bought a set of portable phones so we can connect via intercom from strategic points in the house. This would be a great system except for two things.  One – we forget to use the intercom. Two – we tend to walk around during phone calls. Then when we finish, we put the phone down, wherever we are.  So the next time we need it, the phone is not where it’s supposed to be.  It eventually turns up on a window sill or in the bathroom.

TV is just one source of noise in the modern house. Last fall, before this deep freeze of a winter, I was vacuuming up cat litter. Because I rarely vacuum and only for a few minutes at a time, I don’t bother to replace my hearing aids with earplugs. But on that day, I should have made the effort. The vacuum noise competed for the title of Loudest Sound in the Neighborhood with a leaf blower, a television or two, construction in the lot behind us, and the guy cutting the grass next door. If my son were home, there would also have been comedy videos blaring from his iPad and his howls of laughter (which, to a mom, isn’t really noise).

Noise can have a long-term toxic effect on our hearing, and it also reduces the ability to perceive dangerous and important sounds. What if, in the middle of all this noise, I missed one of the following?

  •  Smoke or CO2 alarm
  •  The battery of the above alarms calling out change me, change me!· Someone knocking or ringing at the front door
  •  The little cat crying when the big cat sits on top of her
  •  Dryer buzzer saying we’re done, come fold us or we’ll be wrinkled forever!
  •  Furnace going off when it’s not supposed to
  •  Footsteps on the stairs
  •  Stove timer saying your eggs are done right NOW!
  •  Phone ringing
  •  Cellphone buzzing (unless it’s in the pocket of something you’re wearing)
  •  Speech coming from another room, another floor, through walls

Even in a quiet house, it’s difficult to hear or locate a sound. If I’m focused on writing or reading, my brain might not pick up a ping-ping-pinging coming from somewhere. As any parent will tell you, when a child is engrossed in a TV show, a cannon could go off and the kid won’t even twitch.

People with hearing loss need peace of mind about safety in their house. They need to communicate easily and be alerted through visual or auditory means to important sounds. Here are some ideas:

  • Reduce competing sources of noise in the house
  • Using closed captioning may reduce the need for high TV volume
  • Set communication ground rules. Conversations, when possible, should be face to face. The person initiating a conversation must go to the other person before starting to talk. (And good luck with that!)
  • Use visual alarms. Flashing lights signify the doorbell, someone knocking, motion outside the house, a phone ringing, a baby crying and the presence of fire, smoke or carbon monoxide. Ensure that all alarms are working properly.
  • Phones should have extra loud ringers and/or flashing lights. Portable phones can also be used as intercoms.
  • Develop an emergency preparedness plan. Know who and how to call for help in an emergency. Have a backup kit of items essential for communication – hearing aid/CI batteries, flashlight, etc.
  • And my personal favorite – get someone else to do the vacuuming.

Turn down the noise and turn up the safety.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

6 Comments

  1. thanks for the tips! To have hearing loss and a noisy house. my family usually has to yell to get me to hear and understand them.

  2. Suzan, you aren’t kidding! And it isn’t simply “background” music, it’s nearly blaring. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t suffer from hearing loss. I would love to sit down and be able to talk to my friends at dinner but I can’t at most (nearly all) restaurants. Don’t even consider taking someone with hearing aids or who is HoH. I’d love to be able to share a good meal and conversation with my mother, but 90% of the restaurants play music so loudly that she can’t wear her hearing aids and can’t hear us without them. It’s extremely frustrating.

  3. I can hear some noises in my house but cannot identify what they are and where they are coming from. One time the smoke alarm was buzzing every 15 seconds because it was letting me know to change the batteries. I tore my computer apart pulling wires out to stop this strange noise. I later realize it was the smoke alarm and had to hire a guy to put all the wires back. My cat Benny first heard the strange buzzing noise too and it was he who alerted me in the beginning.

  4. Oh, Gail, I just love you! Your infectious sense of humour and how every day life can be a great tool for learning is inspiring. I must say I have one observation from this essay: why is it always the woman that goes looking for the husband or children? In my house, it’s “Mom!” “Mom!” “Mom, where are you?” Like you, I run to see what the problem may be and get, “oh, just wanted to know where you are.” Perhaps you could get up and find out??? Gotta laugh, that’s for sure!

  5. I think you missed one of the worst noises that seems to only come from this modern age. Restaurant background music. Absolutely unheard of when I was a kid.Going to a restaurant was to have a conversation, to catch up on things. We can’t do that anymore. Even worse, because people can’t converse in restaurants anymore, everyone seems to spend their meal time texting and playing with their cellphones in isolation of each other. Any restaurant that plays loud background music is simply rude. I wonder what Willie Degal (Restaurant Stakeout) or Charles Stiles (Mystery Diners) would say about that? What is that noise in my restaurant?

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