Sound can carry information, but perhaps more importantly, it can stir our emotions. Your favorite song, the cry of a baby or the sound of your loved one’s voice are just a few examples. One of my clients recently shared with me a story about his guitar, which he called his best friend. As a young teenager, he had saved up his money for quite a while to buy it. He would play it regularly and he told me of a time when, in his later teens, his girlfriend at the time broke up with him. He went home and played that guitar for days, tears streaming down his face. He continued to play it over the years and took it with him as he journeyed through life. As he got older and his hearing loss progressed, he stopped playing the guitar; it just didn’t sound right. It's been a couple of years since he first came to see us and found out that there was nothing wrong with the guitar. He plays regularly again, enjoying the sounds and the memories it brings him.
Sounds can also be loud or noisy and stir unwanted emotions. Another client recently told me of his experience in an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. An MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of body organs. One lays down very still in an enclosed cylindrical tube for several minutes. The whole experience can be unsettling, claustrophobic and very loud. As my client explained, it wasn’t just the loudness of the sound, but the strangeness (including clangs, bangs and jackhammer type sounds) and the unpredictability of their occurrence in combination with the physical experience of being fully encased in a small space which triggered his anxiety.
There is often an emotional component to the sounds of our environment. Whether it is taking the edge off of sound through filtered earplugs or improving our hearing through hearing aids, we have the ability to improve how we experience the sound and therefore have a better emotional experience and quality of life.