Cochlear Implant: Noises that Hurt and Annoy, and how you can help

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, “in the United States, roughly 58,000 [cochlear implant] devices have been implanted in adults and 38,000 in children.” You can help a cochlear implant recipient you know to have a better noise environment by  avoiding noises that hurt and annoy.

Most of us can relate to having a few sounds that annoy us:  a child scraping fingers on a chalkboard, someone “tsk”-ing their tongue on their teeth or a co-worker who constantly clicks their pen.

With the cochlear implant recipient, sounds can hurt.  My husband describes the pain as if someone is sticking a needle under his fingernail!  OUCH!

By being aware of and avoiding hurtful and annoying noises, you can help the cochlear implant recipient you know.

The following noises either hurt or annoy the cochlear implant recipient in my house:

  • opening a letter with a letter opener or knife
  •  rustling paper
  • turning the pages in a book
  • shaking out a garbage bag before you put it in the container
  • coughing or a sudden sneeze
  • someone who sniffs often
  • nose blowing
  • searching through a pocketbook, handbag or book bag for something
  • exhaust vent on a stove
  • fan noise
  • background music or radio playing
  • water running (faucet, fountain, hose, creek)
  • ocean waves
  • screeching birds
  • rain, especially when riding in a car
  • wind noise when outside (sounds like a tornado)
  • clucking your tongue or “tsk”ing
  • clicking a pen
  • un-doing Velcro
  • crinkly plastic grocery bags or potato chip bags
  • ripping off a piece of aluminum foil
  • the click of a spoon when stirring coffee/tea/hot chocolate

Interestingly, my husband can anticipate the noises he makes, like sloshing around flatware in the sink; however it will hurt his ears if I make any sharp, metallic noises like sloshing around flatware in the sink. Because he is not expecting a noise from me, his defenses are down and the noise hurts.

Other sounds that annoy:

  • Turning on the water unexpectedly. I first say, “I need to turn on the water now.”
  • Banging closed a door, drawer or cabinet door.
  • Setting a plate down on the counter firmly.
  • Exaggerated “S” sounds
  • multiple people talking all at once
  • Eating a crunchy apple or piece of celery
  • Music.  He describes some music as sounding like an engine about ready to blow up.
  • Banging a spoon on the edge of a bowl, This is frequently done by someone cooking in order to get any food that is stuck to the spoon to fall back into the bowl.  It is not done in our house.
  • High-pitched cartoon voices or excited small children voices
  • A crying baby
  • Someone who clears their throat repeatedly
  • Putting away clean flatware into the drawer

When you know what kinds of sounds hurt and annoy, it is so much easier to avoid those sounds.  In some situations, you could also give some kind of cue so that your cochlear implant recipient can anticipate the sound, thereby lessening its negative impact. It is daunting at first.  We are now used to loading or unloading a dishwasher quietly, speaking one at a time, or heading into another room to blow our nose. We are glad to be able to help my husband have a pleasant environment when we can.

Earlier I wrote about my husband’s hearing loss in the article 14 ideas to help your communication with the hearing impaired.  If you are really struggling with health or other challenges, read God Trains Us Hard-Why?  

Other articles you might enjoy:

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The Lesson of the Gravel Pile

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Macaroni and Cheese with Spicy Sausage for Grown-Ups

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