Note: If you’re looking for tips on how to get oil stains out of your shirt, or how to remove old wallpaper, you’re in the wrong place. People with hearing loss deal with those issues in the same way as hearing people. This article is about dealing with noise, Enemy #1 of people with hearing loss.
Housework is noisy. Yesterday, as I moved through the house dragging the central vac hose behind me, I could focus only on the boredom—and the noise. My cats feel the same way, flying into a hiding place at the sight of the vacuum.
Noise is often defined as unwanted sound, so I guess that means that nobody likes noise. But what hearing people consider to be wanted sound is often just sheer noise for people with hearing loss (PWHL), especially those of us who use hearing aids and cochlear implants. Noise interferes with good communication and, in my case, it can ignite hyperacusis (where sounds are perceived louder than they really are) faster than those cats can fly.
That’s why PWHL avoid noisy restaurants, conversations of more than 3-4 people, and screaming rock concerts. It’s also why I should avoid housework. Also I don’t like doing it. But it has to be done and there are ways to minimize noise while attacking domestic disasters.
Take ‘Em Out. The first strategy is a no-brainer: remove hearing technology and wear ear plugs. If you’re worried about missing something while you work, carry your vibrating phone in your pocket, or ditch it and give yourself up to silent bliss.
Vacuuming is the noisiest domestic activity, in my life anyway. Carpeted floors absorb every day house and family sound, which is good, but require vacuuming, which is bad. A vacuum’s noise level can range from 70-85 decibels, depending on the type, quality and age of equipment. To minimize noise, don’t vacuum non-carpeted floors—that’s the broom’s job. The other option is to get down on your hands and knees and pick up all the bitty pieces of ka-ka with your fingers. It may take a long time, but it will be quiet.
Kitchen Chores. My current kitchen, slated for renovation in the next year, is small. Sound has a field day, ricocheting from wall to ceiling to fridge to cupboards, making the kitchen somewhat like a car race pit stop. The stove vent fan makes me nuts, so I use it sparingly. Putting away cutlery was a painful exercise until my brilliant Hearing Husband cut some sound-absorbing anti-slip stuff and placed it under the cutlery trays. The difference is amazing.
Several internet sites suggest lowering the kitchen ceiling, leaving a cavity in the middle that helps buffer the noise but still gives it a place to go. This is not practical in a family where our men top 6’7”. Better to use sound absorbing materials on the floor and counters. In my new kitchen, I won’t have one of those hard stone floors that cause a big kaboom-crash when you drop a frying pan. Acoustic linoleum or cork-like floor treatments are much better at absorbing sound. And finally I’ll get my dream counter—a sound-numbing and beautifully glowing, butcher-block counter top.
Washing dishes means plates and cutler bang against each other and the metal sink. We use the dishwasher but I hate wasting water. I was raised in one of those families where you’re not allowed to keep the water running while you brush your teeth. The taps ran on a needs-to-wet basis only. So I feel guilty with water and electricity-guzzling dishwashers, although the new ones are super-efficient, and a dishwasher can be timed to run while you’re asleep (without hearing aids). But you still have to empty the darn thing.
Slam-proof drawers—if you don’t have the fancy ones that slow to a crawl just before they close, train your family to stop using their feet or hip to close doors and drawers. Washer and dryer doors need just a gentle push to latch shut, not a karate kick. And speaking of laundry room noise—if possible, close the door while your fine delicates are coming clean. Unfortunately, our cat litter box is in that utility room so keeping the door shut is risking an accident elsewhere in the house.
The best way to reduce housework noise is to not do it. Assign it to someone else, while you go for a walk. But I can’t expect the Hearing Husband to do all the work around the house and I haven’t yet trained the cats how to sweep the floor with their tails. Prior to semi-retirement, we had a lovely lady who came in every other week and who was the noisiest cleaner I ever heard; that vacuum cleaner was a weapon in her hands, leaving battle scars on baseboards and wooden chair legs. I just blessed her for being there and left the house for some quiet time.
If anyone else has some nifty, noise-free cleaning ideas, do share!