Someone’s in the Kitchen with Tinnitus

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah

Someone’s in the kitchen I know (oh-oh-oh)

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dine-AHH

Making lots of noise, noise, noise!


The World Health Organization (WHO) says that  “excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects [disturbances in mental health], reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.

And that’s just the effect on people with good hearing, who have no inner noise issues!

But for people like me, sound doesn’t have to be excessive in order to be crazy-making. Like millions of other people, I have tinnitus. Also, a form of hyperacusis. Plus, (I suspect), muscles in my middle ear that have become bored and gone rogue, nutso, off the wall.

For people like us, noise can unpleasantly affect our conversations, workouts, and every daily thing we do. But the WHO warning still applies; so far, my heart-health is holding up, but I can get pretty testy and jumpy at loud noises, which in turn affects my behavior.  I don’t avoid social events, because that’s torture to an extrovert; I merely have  to decide between the lesser of two evils—put up with the noise or sit at home with a book.

Tinnitus and hyperacusis are heterogeneous, meaning that each of us experiences them somewhat differently, from different causes. How we deal with it, both emotionally and physically, is individual and so is our success rate.  And for some, our symptoms are ignited not just by sound, but by movement.  The whooshing of my hyperacusis is brought on, not only by sound, but by muscle movement. An intake of breath, a turn of the head or – when lying in bed – turning over or moving a leg. And it doesn’t matter whose leg it is—mine, the Hearing Husband’s or the cat’s—anything that jostles me can bring on the dreaded whoosh. I’ve learned to reverse the process by making the movement again, or taking a deep breath, or hunching my shoulders or some other muscle movement that settles my head-noise down to its normal tinnitus. Until the next flareup.

There’s not much I can do about nighttime whooshes—beyond sleeping alone in a mummy-like straight jacket in a cat-proof bedroom—but I can do something about the one of the noisiest places on earth—the kitchen.

Ah, the kitchen, where people congregate in the fragrant pit of fabulous food and gorgeous drinks, which cause the drool to pool in our mouths, anticipating the magical moment when we can actually eat.

But if you are sensitive to sound for any reason, kitchens can also be a nightmare. Hard floors create noise when it makes contact with anything—shoes, falling glassware, dogs’ fingernails. Chopping vegetables on a hard plastic cutting board is excruciating on the ears. Water steaming, veggies sizzling, and running faucets add up to one gigantic, horrific hissss. People-talk and laughter is amplified in the smaller confines of a kitchen.Peggy weill 2

Until the breakthrough cure for tinnitus and hyperacusis is discovered (probably within minutes of my leaving this earth), I’ll have to manage the kitchen noise the best I can.  We’re putting in a new kitchen over the next year and we’re focusing on using sound-absorbing,  noise-reducing  materials.

  • A more open-concept space that won’t let sound bounce off the walls.
  • Floor: cork-based, treated wood, non-trip and washable carpets.
  • Counters: laminate-that-looks-like-granite and a butcher block section—and a center island, positioned for easy people flow (as in, get outta my way).
  • Scraping chair and table legs send me through the roof. So, anything that moves—devices, appliances or piece of furniture—will have noise-muffling, gliding bottoms.
  • Garburator: Not gonna happen.  I’ll compost.
  • Drawers will be non-slamming and easy-sliding and the ones with cutlery will have sound absorbing mats to keep the clanking to a minimum.
  • Appliances must be quiet—and that means you, dishwasher, blender and fridge! blender
  • Timers will be visual or vibrating, rather than beeping or bellowing.

If too many people are talking in your kitchen, shoo them into another room with drinks and appetizers and when all else fails, hold an outside barbecue where the noise can be sucked up to the heavens.

If you have a noise sensitivity of any sort, understand and recognize your noise triggers and avoid them if possible.  And for people with typical hearing and normal responses to sounds, we just want you to understand why sudden loud noises—such as your voice—can make us cringe.  (Actually, we may not know why this happens, just that it does.) Please lift your chair when getting up from the table, and don’t turn on the blender without warning us. We’ll show our gratitude by replacing your noisy shoes with felt slippers.

Let’s hope that the next time someone or something is in the kitchen with Dinah, it doesn’t spark her tinnitus.


Kitchen Image:  A Silly Noisy House  Peggy Weil 1991



About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, 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.


  1. This totally describes my experience; especially the glass cutting board my sister’s love and I want to break with a hammer, but that would be noisy also! Great article and cheers to your new wonderful kitchen life!

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