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Strategies to Improve Hearing and Mitigate Background Noise

What We Do

Strategies to Improve Hearing and Mitigate Background Noise

"The thing about hearing loss is that no one can see it."

These strategies range from 1) improving the acoustical environment, 2) providing a variety of furniture options that can be easily moved in closer, and 3) improving personal communications skills, in addition to personal use of good quality hearing aids.  By maximizing the acoustical and physical features of the environment, the opportunity for enhanced personal communication can be increased.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss:  

Definition: A person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing, meaning hearing thresholds of 20 decibels (dB) or better in both ears. Reference: World Health Organization definition (WHO)

Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater than 35 (dB) in the better hearing ear. The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age. (WHO)

  • About 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.  (Mar 25, 2021, NIH -Calculations made by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Epidemiology and Statistics.) 
  • More than 80 percent of those older than 85 experience hearing loss.   This is the average age of residents of long-term care.  Better acoustical environments must be provided in long-term care centers to prevent social isolation of hearing-impaired residents.

It's a Chronic Condition

Hearing loss is number three on the list of chronic conditions that affect older adults. As we age, it becomes more difficult to separate conversational voices from background noise. Reduction in noise pollution and providing better acoustical environments will allow those with hearing loss to maximize their abilities. Hearing impaired persons are especially victimized by background noise. With a hearing loss, it becomes more difficult to separate sounds in the environment and to identify the nature, source, and location of the sound. Depending on the degree, anyone with hearing loss may become confused and startled when a noise occurs until they can analyze the meaning and determine an appropriate response to the noise.  Note:  Social isolation is a huge negative consequence of not being able to hear, causing the person to withdraw.  

Problems with noise are not limited to understanding conversations. Too much noise at night has been identified by numerous research studies as one of two contributors to disruption of nocturnal sleep. (The other contributor is too much light at night.) 

People constantly exposed to loud noise run an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, and headaches. 

Improving things in the home

  • Verify the sound rating for any new appliances for your home.
  • Use sound absorbing materials such as carpets, fabrics on furniture, and draperies.
  • Don’t combine the switch for the light and the exhaust fan in bathrooms. Use a timer switch for the fan so that you can leave the room and have the fan shut off.
  • Provide doorbell chimes in more than one location, i.e. walk-in closets, family rooms, and on each level of the home.
  • Install a flashing light to let you know that someone is at the door or calling on the phone.
  • Install a motion sensor so you will know when someone is approaching a front or back door, which will activate the door chime or flashing light.
  • Consider installing a built-in vacuum system, which is quieter and easier to handle.
  • Run the dishwasher at night.
  • Plan your home’s layout to separate noisy activities from quiet activities.