by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
One lady asked:
Do you ever hear something and can’t figure out immediately where the sound is coming from?
Another lady replied:
For me, that happens all the time. I have much less hearing in my right ear than in my left. At work when someone calls my name and I am up at the printer, I often turn to the wrong person and say, “What?” only to be told that it was someone else nearby.
Or I hear a repetitive noise, and have to turn my head in different directions to figure out where it is coming from so I can go see what it is.
Worst is when I am in a parking lot and hear a horn or the sound of the motor and don’t know if it is coming from behind me, or beside me, or is nowhere near me.
Similarly, I do not know what direction sirens are coming from when I am driving. It is scary, but also embarrassing at times. Fortunately I don’t have to deal with it very often, but one week I mistook where a police siren was coming from twice.
The first time I was on a ramp getting ready to merge onto a highway from the interstate and heard a siren. I looked carefully at the end of the ramp as I delayed merging into traffic and couldn’t find the source of the siren, and then realized the police car was behind me so I needed to get out of his way!
Then several days later I was driving home and came to an intersection with limited visibility when I heard a siren. I assumed since I was on a side road and the crossroad was a well traveled road, the emergency vehicle was on that road and again looked both ways several times trying to figure out where the siren was coming from. At which point the car across the intersection waved me to come through even though he had gotten there before I did, and I then discovered (again) that the police car had been sitting right behind me.
This goes to show that we hard of hearing people need to always be alert and use our eyes in addition to our ears (not to mention looking in every direction—not just the most likely ones)!
Unfortunately, people with a slow, progressive hearing loss often still act as hearing people, and expect their ears to work normally. Thus, they rely on their (defective) ears instead of using their eyes in addition to their ears.
For myself, I can’t hear the sirens until they are right beside me (much too late to get out of their way), so I always watch for flashing lights. It is the rare emergency vehicle that ever gets close to me without my already having seen its emergency lights and taken appropriate action. This is because I was born with a severe hearing loss and never have been able to rely on my hearing.