What sounds do you miss the most?

What sounds would people most like to hear clearly again?

Age-related hearing loss affects almost all adults to some degree, and subtle changes sometimes mean that sounds can vanish without people even realizing. Hearing loss can also result from sickness, accident, or from exposure to sustained loud noises.

My patients often talk about what they know they are missing, but what do people most look forward to hearing again?

Some people long to hear nature in all its glory again – the sound of the waves on the shore, the birds singing and calling in the trees, the whispering of the grass, or the crunch of sand or gravel beneath strolling feet. Others miss the clarity of the voices they love the most. One patient told me years ago that the voices of his wife and family were like jewels. His hearing loss made him strain and many times miss entirely what they were saying. I have people who have knocked on my office door and announced, “I want to hear the birds again!” others who have said, “who cares about the birds, I want to hear my family and friends speak clearly again.”

One grandmother said that being able to hear what her grandchildren whispered to each other was both a joy and a revelation, while another lady cited the ability to join in a normal conversation without missing anything an advantage of having a hearing aid. Others say that shopping is much more enjoyable now that they can hear in-store announcements. In the workplace, sounds like the copier or fax are clear once again, although lots of people admit to liking the once-forgotten sounds of the coffee machine and the final bell more. Even the microwave buzzer or the smoke alarm comes back into our perception when we hear clearly. Everyone loves music but it can be one of the first pleasures to be lost when hearing is impaired. The subtle nuances and changes of tone, that a beautiful violin or lightly-tapped cymbal in the background – those sounds can all vanish when ears aren’t as capable as they once were.

Because the process is often gradual, many people simply don’t realize that anything is missing until they have their hearing loss corrected. Being able to listen to a favorite song and have it sound just as good as it did 20 years ago is truly special.

Safety issues are important too and are sometimes linked to the sounds that people miss – whether that’s the ability to hear traffic more clearly or the sound of someone approaching. A lady I knew in Virginia recalls that she was only alerted to visitors when her dog pricked up his ears and barked. Now, she can hear every footstep and creak when someone has stepped on to the porch. She says that she loves the extra confidence and feeling of security that her hearing aid has given her.

I especially love my one-week follow-up appointments with patients who have gotten hearing aids! They are so thrilled with hearing many things they forgot were even happening around them. Some mention the crisp turn signals on the way home from my office. Others at the dramatic way they can turn down the TV volume. I had one man call me when he got home telling me he could hear his grandfather clock ticking as soon as he came in the front door and the clock was a full 10 feet away. I know in my own experience, life simply goes on around me or better yet past me when I do not have my hearing aids on.

What are you missing in the sounds of life? What would you most like to hear clearly again? Each hearing-impaired person may answer that in a slightly different way but hearing aid technology really does “aid” or help us hear clearly again.

If you have the symptoms of hearing loss let a professional help you find out why. The hearing professional will help you sort out the technology level to meet your need, your budget, and answer your hearing need questions.

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS, is owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven.

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