Experiences in Active and Passive Listening Environments

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Updated: Mar 31, 2023
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Mild hearing loss is defined as a person having the inability to hear soft sounds that are in the 26 to 40 dB range. Soft sounds like whispered conversations and birds chirping are some examples. One may also have a hard time hearing both low-pitched and high-pitched sounds, known as frequency (CSD 402). Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and can range between these low to high pitches. People with mild hearing loss typically have the most trouble with hearing high-frequency pitches.

The most common reason behind mild hearing loss is noise exposure.

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Things such as an excess amount of cerumen (CSD 491), also known as earwax which protects your ears from dirt and bacteria, can cause temporary mild hearing loss. However, when treated properly, hearing is typically restored. Over the past month, I’ve been able to get a taste of what temporary mild hearing loss feels like. My experiences have allowed me to gain a better understanding of what people who are hard of hearing go through.

Active Listening Environment

I attended the National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) to experience my first active listening environment. I arrived just in time to see the tractor pulls begin. I thought this would be the perfect time to wear my earplugs because tractor pulls are known as one of the loudest places on Earth, yet a challenging experience to simulate my hearing loss due to the extreme noise level. Some of the people I sat next to tried to strike up a conversation on several different occasions. During my time at the NFMS, I watched pull classes that had a decibel or dB (CSD 491) level of around 160.

The sound level in the arena was unsafe and could potentially lead to hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels (dB). For reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB, a normal conversation is about 60 dB, a motorcycle is about 95 dB, and firecrackers range from about 140-150 dB. Because of the noise level in the facility, if one conversed, he/she had to talk loudly. I felt as though I was screaming, and I had to ask those that were talking to me to scream as well, or I would not hear them. To get my attention, people had to physically touch me, or else I had no idea they were trying to talk to me. I had to focus diligently on what the person was saying, and I did more lip-reading than listening. I felt as though I screamed, “What, sir, and ma’am,” repeatedly. After so many times and still not understanding what the person was saying, I would just nod my head.

As I reflected on the conversations I had during the tractor pulls, I felt shameful. Shame arises in reaction to an event in which one makes a negative self-evaluation and fears being negatively judged by others (Broekhof, Kouwenberg, Oosterveld, Frijns, & Rieffe, 2017). I was so worried about the people around me evaluating me and thinking I was being rude or stuck up. Shame elicits feelings of worthlessness and an urge to escape from the evoking social situation, which results in avoidant and withdrawn behaviors (Broekhof, Kouwenberg, Oosterveld, Frijns, & Rieffe, 2017). I can attest to this fact, as I was counting down the minutes until the tractor pull was over and I could remove myself from the uncomfortable situation.

Passive Listening Environment

I brought my earplugs to church to experience a passive listening environment. I sat up front, right behind the deaf community, so that I could hear better. The church I attend has a deaf interpreter. I never thought that I would have as much appreciation for this resource until I had to simulate a mild hearing loss. During worship, I was surprised because this was the first time that I had my earplugs in, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out. Because of my seating choice, the loud microphone, and the words on the screen, I felt a sense of normalcy. However, things got a bit more troublesome during the sermon.

While I could somewhat hear the preacher, there were things that I missed. I found myself wishing all the words the preacher was saying we’re on the screen like it was for the songs. Mild thresholds of HL are associated with depression symptoms over a period of time but not with an incident diagnosis of major depression (Cosh, Carriere, Daien, Amieva, Tzourio, Delcourt, Helmer, 2018). This comes as no surprise because of my experience at church with mild hearing loss. Attending church is a priority in my life and enriches my life. Not being able to hear or understand the sermon made me upset, and after the consistency of this, I could see where signs and symptoms of depression could seep into one’s life who had a hearing loss.

Active Listening Environment

On Saturday, I wore my earplugs to a place called Drybar, a hair salon, to experience an active listening environment. As I walked in the door, a loud noise struck my ears, even with the earplugs in place. I quickly discovered the noise was coming from about fifteen cheerful females. “Yikes!” I thought to myself. I knew I was in for a troublesome time due to the high level of background noise. When my hairdresser introduced herself, I had to lean toward her mouth to hear what she said. The woman had a soft voice, so I was feeling anxious about what was to come in the next hour, as weak voices made it even harder for me to hear.

The hairdresser tried to carry on a conversation throughout my hair wash, which was difficult for me to hear due to the water being so close to my ears. Sometimes, I could vaguely hear her say something, and I wouldn’t respond simply because I didn’t want to have to say, What? Again and just hoped she thought I couldn’t hear her. I noticed from that point on the woman refrained from a conversation with me, and I didn’t try to keep one going for the sake of not being able to hear her responses. With the combination of the amount of background noise and the positioning of my hairstylist behind me, it was nearly impossible to be able to understand what was being said.

During the hair-drying aspect of the hour, I felt that I could hear her talking, but I didn’t know what she was saying. She turned off the hairdryer, came out from behind me, looked me in the eyes, and asked me if I wanted a drink of water. I responded with a no, as I felt I had already irritated her throughout my time there. This experience was not enjoyable, and it had nothing to do with the people or the place but, instead, with my hearing loss. I felt excluded as I watched other girls and their hairdresser conversing.

I missed out on the social aspect of this encounter. At first, I regretted performing this simulation in what was supposed to be a stress-free, relaxing environment. However, I have so much more empathy for people like my grandma that go through occurrences like this often. Because of background noise, social experiences may become difficult, and relationships may suffer because of communication problems or because activities once enjoyed together are no longer pleasant to the person with hearing loss (Mick, Kawachi, & Lin, 2014). It comes as no surprise to me that the more severe the hearing loss, the higher the odds of being socially isolated in older adult women (Mick, Kawachi, & Lin, 2014). Just from my experience at Drybar, I could see myself eventually becoming socially isolated due to constantly having to ask people to repeat themselves. I would probably avoid going back if the mild hearing loss I imitated was permanent.

Passive Listening Environment

To demonstrate a passive listening environment with my earplugs, I watched TV in my room for an hour until I went to bed. This was a time when I felt most comfortable wearing my earplugs. However, I didn’t realize how loud I had the volume because when my roommate got home, she texted me saying, “Are you home? I knocked on your door but didn’t want to barge in. I thought you were because I could hear your TV from downstairs, but I wasn’t sure when you didn’t answer.” After reading that message, I felt like an annoyance and didn’t want my roommate to think I was ignoring her. I was worried that I was disturbing something going on downstairs since she mentioned being able to hear my TV, even though my door was closed.

From that point on, I had to figure out how to turn on the subtitles on my TV (because I’d never used them before) to understand what I was watching. The findings of a study on the severity of age-related hearing loss and its association with impaired activities of daily living suggest that severely diminished hearing could make the difference between independence and the need for formal support services or placement (Gopinath, Schneider, McMahon, Teber, Leeder, Mitchell, 2011). This did not come as a shock to me as I had to depend on those subtitles, which made me feel less independent. I can only imagine what I would depend on if I had this mild hearing loss into my elderly years.

Active Listening Environment

I recently misplaced my debit card and had to order a new one. My bank called me to let me know that my new debit card was ready. I decided to wear my earplugs to the bank in order to simulate an active listening environment. The bank was crowded, and I had to wait in line for thirty minutes. When I finally got to the teller, the man who was helping me was short and sat at a tall desk.

When the man talked, he talked while looking down and typing on his computer; therefore, I could not see his mouth. I noticed that I kept trying to look for his mouth, to read his lips. I simply could not hear what he was asking, so I finally looked at him and said, “I am sorry, sir. Could you speak up, please? I can’t hear you.” He finally stopped typing on his computer, looked up, and repeated what he said in a louder voice. I was at the bank, dealing with that teller for thirty more minutes.

All I had to do was simply pick up a card, sign a few papers, and change my address. It shouldn’t have taken that long. I noticed that my body relaxed once I exited the bank doors. Once I sat down in my car, I could feel the onset of a headache. Regardless of age, it is typical for those who suffer from mild hearing loss to experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue or headaches, as a result of the increased amount of energy expended in an effort to hear and listen (Welling & Ukstins, 2019). My body had worked so hard to hear the man. Its reaction ended up giving me a headache.

I am thankful for my experiences in both active and passive listening environments. I have obtained a whole new perspective for those who have hearing loss. As I simulated only a mild one, I can only begin to imagine someone dealing with severe to profound hearing loss. I encourage everyone to take a walk in someone else’s shoes before expressing frustration and annoyance with those who have hearing loss.

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Experiences in Active and Passive Listening Environments. (2023, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/experiences-in-active-and-passive-listening-environments/