What It’s Like for Me Without Hearing Aids

As you may or may not know I have terrible hearing. I can hold a chat face to face fine but if you try and call me from across the room, it’s falling on deaf ears.

I’ve had hearing aids for a few years but I’ve only worn them on and off because they weren’t great quality, bringing in a fair bit of background white noise and distorting higher pitched voices. But I recently went through the process for getting a new pair and there is a noticeable difference in the extra sound they bring.

Like people with really thick glasses one question I get a lot is “Can I try them on?” from curious people who want to understand our sensory differences. Unfortunately they’re custom moulded to my ears so probably won’t fit and it’s also a bit gross putting something with someone else’s earwax in your ears.

So this blog post is for all of you people who want to find out what its like with/without my hearing aids.

The Hearing Test

I want to simulate for you a basic, totally non-professional hearing test and pair it with my results.

The professional hearing test for me involved sitting in a double-glazed glass box wearing some highly calibrated earphones. They then played a series of beeps that start out inaudible and got louder very slowly until I could just about hear them. As soon as I could hear a beep I had to press a button that would signal to the audiologist outside the box that I could hear the noise. They did this separately for each ear at a variety of pitches until they had built up an image of my hearing across a wide spectrum of pitches high and low.

What I want you to go through will be a simulation of this but without a perfectly silent environment and without medically approved hardware and software, just an app on your phone. But if you’re at all concerned about your own hearing trying this out, it won’t hurt to see your GP to get a proper test. I know myself that I denied I was moderately deaf for years through school before getting it checked out at uni when I couldn’t hear lecturers properly from 10 rows back in the lecture theatres.

My Results

Below is an image of my audiology test results.

My audiology test results

On the left is my left ear and on the right is my right ear.

The Frequency axis at the bottom is for how well my ears can hear at different frequencies - lower numbers are lower pitch sounds and higher numbers are higher pitch sounds. Human voices generally fall between 300 and 3000Hz, where you can see both my ears do pretty badly.

The Volume axis on the right is the volume at which I can first hear a noise at that frequency. As you can see the numbers at the top are smaller and are quieter noises for when you can first hear. The normal hearing range for first hearing a noise is between 15 and 25 dB. My ears are generally between 30 and 65dB before I can hear something.

Your Turn!

So now for the interactive part for you.

First of all I need you to download a sound-meter app on your phone like one of these:

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gamebasic.decibel&hl=en_GB

iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/decibel-10-dba-noise-meter/id448155923?mt=8

Now get a cushion and place it in front of you on your desk and put your phone on top of it with your soundmeter app open. This is to try and avoid vibrations through the desk messing with your sound readings.

Set your speaker volume on your laptop to zero and start playing this YouTube video.

Now cover your right ear and slowly raise the volume on your laptop speakers until you can first hear the noise. Hopefully you can first hear it between 15 and 25dB according to your phone. Now keep raising it until you get to 35dB. That is when my left ear can first hear this noise.

Stop the first video, reset your speaker volume to zero and do the same with this next video.

My left ear can first hear this noise at 50dB. Yeah, pretty loud huh? I can’t hear that tone if its any quieter than 50dB and at that level its only a very faint noise.

Now let’s do the same for this video:

My left ear can’t hear that until 65dB! You get the picture so we’ll wrap it up with one more video at 2000Hz, just remember to reset your volume to zero first as this is quiet an annoying, relatively high-pitched squeal.

My left ear can’t hear that until 60dB!

If you want to see what my right ear’s like, scroll back up to my audiology test results and go again but referencing the results on my right ear. They mirror each other pretty well though so you won’t notice much difference.

My hearing aids make up the gap across different frequencies between when you can first hear a sound and when I can first hear a sound. So if you put them on, you’d have like Superman hearing. Without them I struggle to pick up conversations in the same room that I’m not focused on directly, with them I can follow along with someone’s Skype call 3 or 4 rows of desks over. Yeah I realise the woman I have in mind in our office is pretty loud but before I’d be totally oblivious to that sort of background noise. For you with them on, it’d turn music on your speakers into a rock concert.

If I’ve not got my hearing aids on and you get frustrated and want to ask “Are you deaf or something?” Yes, moderately in both ears.

Now look after your hearing and your kids’ hearing if you have any and wear ear plugs at concerts, clubs, festivals, building sites or wherever or you may end up like me!

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