As the temperature drops, the leaves begin to change, and the Thanksgiving leftovers are almost gone, I am reminded of my annual tradition of putting my thoughts to paper. Last year, I wrote about why I am STILL grateful for my hearing loss. That post, along with its predecessor, remain our most popular blog entries.
The world as we know it…now
The world continues to grapple with a pandemic and a host of other issues that affect our daily lives. Personally, I’ve grown tired of the negativity and want more than anything to spread hope and gratitude. I’ve made a conscious decision to find the silver lining every day. The rose doesn’t always reveal itself as easily as the thorns, but it’s there!
Thinking about sound in a new, healthier way
This year, 2021, transformed me in ways I didn’t imagine possible. For one, I’m much more aware of how sound plays a significant role in my happiness. Afterall, like many of you, my time inside my home has grown exponentially and I’m affected much more by factors like street noise, virtual meetings, internet connectivity (or lack thereof), and quite frankly isolation. I’ve taken charge of my overall health, eating healthier (thanks to Noom and my SodaStream), exercising more (love my morning bike rides and pilates), and investigating and purchasing products that minimize noise and control sound.
New year, new friends
My hearing loss used to be a point of contention in my life, but now I see (once again) that my hearing ability has been a blessing beyond measure. Recently my alma maters, Rochester Institute of Technology (undergrad) and Pratt Institute (grad), approached me to speak to their student bodies about my life’s work dedicated to hearing technology and accessibility. These renewed relationships have validated my strong desire to help others find new ways to improve their daily routines and overall wellness.
Along those same lines of making meaningful connections, I was fortunate to participate in a podcast with mindfulness coach, Wade Brill, of Centered in the City. One bit of advice she gives on her website is “Instead of getting distracted by the noise and overwhelm of the world, come back to your center with intentional practices that enhance your wellbeing…”.
Enter … epiphany: Improving our emotional and physical health is not just about how well we hear, but about how well we manage sound!
Sound affects almost every part of your life. That’s why some noises drive you to distraction or make you angry, while other noises lull you to sleep. Sound helps you think better, focus more intensely, and even reduces anxiety and pain. Positive sounds, like music or pleasant conversation, can be disrupted by noise. Taking control of what you hear and what you don’t — your soundscape — changes everything!
The relationship between sound and quality of life is like breathing. You know it’s there, but you don’t overtly think about it. Matters of hearing, sound, and noise naturally integrate with what is most important in a post-pandemic world.
Knowledge is power
I was already familiar with a large body of research that connects hearing better to a vast array of benefits (see also: “The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss” from Johns Hopkins), including:
- Greater satisfaction with relationships with friends and family
- Increased job satisfaction
- Higher income level
- Less incidence of loneliness or isolation
- Lower rates of depression and anxiety related to stress
- Shorter, less frequent hospital visits
- Greater cognitive functioning
- Lower rates of dementia
But what I’m discovering is that it’s not just about hearing. Many of these benefits are directly affected by our ability to manage our personal soundscapes at home, at work, or at play. In fact, managing sound is a significant part of how we manage our overall wellness. At-home workers and students are learning how to create (or even purchase) quiet spaces that boost productivity and reduce stress. Many sleepers have found that a sound (or white noise) generator helps them sleep more soundly and have more energy the next day. And every year, music and sound therapy sessions help thousands of people use sound to focus on healing their bodies and minds.
McKinsey & Company recently published consumer research findings that show an increased interest in overall wellness. I’m grateful that sound — and hearing — is becoming a healthy part of that trend.
Progress with OTC hearing aids
Of course, hearing remains a most important part of our soundscapes. So, better access to affordable hearing devices is critical. In October of this year, the FDA released device requirements for a new class of hearing aids officially called over-the-counter (OTC). These devices can make hearing aids more affordable and encourage those with mild to moderate hearing loss to take action earlier. I can hardly express how happy I am about this new legislation! Accessibility has always been a passion of mine and this will provide better access for many who would benefit from a hearing aid, but who are not currently using them.
Looking forward to 2022
Going into 2022 a healthier me, I feel ever so grateful. I’m particularly grateful for this journey into sound wellness that started with managing my own hearing loss. I plan to continue my quest for overall wellness with a bigger focus on managing my own soundscape. And, of course, I’ll use my knowledge, resources, and experiences to help others hear better and manage their own soundscapes more effectively. Now, more than ever, I’m grateful to know that by conquering sound, noise, and hearing, we can conquer life!