How to Hear in Loud Places: 4 tips on listening strategy for damaged hearing (and everybody else too)
No matter how much you like crowds and crowded spaces, places like stadiums, concerts, and restaurants can make it difficult to hear the conversation. But these environments can be especially challenging for anyone suffering from hearing loss, even with a hearing aid.
But even though these environments might not be ideal, we do not need to avoid them. There are some very simple strategies we can employ to help us navigate those situations with grace and dignity, helping us to stay focused and participating in the conversation.
4 Key Facts about Sound and Attention
Noisy environments are difficult for everyone because the background noise can be so loud, our brains do not know where to focus our attention.
We may not be able to control everything in our environment, but we can look for four ways to increase our hearing and focus. Usually, there is a way to take action on one or more of these to make a big improvement in the quality of conversation.
- Limit origins of sound – The first key to audiostrategy is to limit distractions as best as you can. A 360 degree audio environment is the most difficult for your ears to parse, so block as much area as possible to help your ears focus. Just positioning yourself next to a wall can make a big difference. Also consider that any barrier to your body is also a barrier to sound. Booths are typically much quieter than tables because they block sound — maybe not all the way to the ceiling, but from three sides and up to three or four feet off the floor.
- Isolate the direction of the speaker – If your speaker is close to a wall, try moving so that they have their backs to the wall. The sound coming from the direction of the speaker will not be confused by background noise behind them, so your ears will know to listen to sound coming from one direction and block out all other directions. This makes it much easier to focus.
- Face the speaker – Hearing and hearing aids work best in the area you are facing. This is very easy to forget, but if you are having difficulty understanding someone, turn to face the person directly. This rule is made even more impactful by hearing aid technology, which can emphasize sounds coming from in front of you.
- Noise dampeners – Ever notice how some of the cosiest restaurants have a lot of fabric on the walls? Sound dampeners like textiles and soft surfaces soak up ambient noise and make it much easier to pay attention to your company. Choose locations with appropriate soundproofing measures.
Fortunately, understanding just a few things about sound can give us a huge advantage in social situations. If we know how sound and our hearing works, we can better choose where to stand, sit, and look, so that we can more easily follow the flow of conversation. Try to apply these strategies in your life, and see how well they work!