Hats, Hoods and Other Hazards to Hearing

Winter is most definitely here and that means taking special care on icy sidewalks and slippery driveways, and keeping those fingers, toes and noses warm.

snow hoodFor people with hearing loss, there may be other safety issues.

Wearing a hat that covers the ears affects how well you hear. It’s like putting your hands over your ears to block unwanted sound.

Wind, rain and even snow are noisy and will affect how you hear. Nature can easily drown out other sounds.

Traffic noise is louder when the roads are wet.

Snowplows, snow blowers and shovels scraping on sidewalks are noisy.

All this means your eyes are more important than ever in keeping you safe outdoors. But if you wear a coat or parka with a hood, that can affect your vision, especially your peripheral vision. You may need to turn your whole body to check for oncoming traffic.

These are all pretty routine precautions the deaf and hard of hearing should take.

For cochlear implant users, weather poses additional challenges.

A cochlear implant has an earpiece and a magnet attaching the device to the implanted component. The exterior magnet cannot be too strong because it will damage the skin. That means it’s fairly lightly attached. When I take off a hat or scarf, or pull a sweater over my head, it’s very likely to sweep the c.i. off with it. It flies across the floor or into the street or even into the path of oncoming traffic. This is not something they tell you in the c.i. manuals.

If you are unlucky enough to slip on ice or snow and hit your head, the c.i. may also fly off. I lost one that way on a blustery evening. (My head hurt too.)

If you’re not wearing a hat on a windy day, the wind itself can dislodge the earpiece. That happened to me on a ferry last summer. A gust of wind swept my hair and the implant flew right off. Fortunately, the deck of the ferry was metal and so the magnet stuck to the metal deck instead of skittering overboard.

Tight hats or headbands can also be a problem. For me, they put pressure on my hearing aid ear, making it uncomfortable and sometimes evoking a squeal. If I hold an umbrella too close to my head, the spokes act as a magnet and pull the c.i. off.

So what’s the solution? Nothing very insightful. Be careful. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times. Take your hats, scarves and sweaters off carefully. Don’t wear your cochlear implant out in the wind (especially near water) unless you’re also wearing a hat or scarf to anchor it.

What are your weather-related stories? Advice for others? Please share.

 

13 thoughts on “Hats, Hoods and Other Hazards to Hearing

  1. Variations of everything you describe have happened to me, many times. One obvious solution is the tether that Cochlear provides–at least with Kanso version. The device still comes off, but at least it doesn’t go flying. And it’s harder to fit under a hat or head band than the thinner over the hear, coil, magnet standard device. As for hearing aids–I wear one in my other ear–that’s a whole other set of dynamics. Guess, I don’t really have any helpful insights. As with all things hearing-loss related, one has to adopt an attitude of zen-equanimity to deal with the day to day. All the more so with head gear and weather, lol.

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    • Julie, I have somehow lost that post and it didn’t come through with your comment this time. But for readers, Julie was explaining about new surgical masks that are clear so you can read lips. I’ll write about this in a post about hospital experience.

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  2. As one who is 9 days away from getting an implant, I am most appreciative of being made aware of this “slice of life” with a C.I.

    Thanks Katherine!

    BB

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  3. Your experience with your implant on the ferry is surreal — amazing that the magnet saved the day!

    Cannot believe Rebecca graduates Gettysburg College in May! She is now talking about working for a year or two and then getting a Masters in Social Work or Psychology, which was always one of her career ideas. I think the business world has less and less allure the more exposure she has to it.

    How is Lizi liking being back in NYC? Please remind me of the work she is now doing. Rebecca is putting out feelers for future employment, trying to figure out where to work while she is mulling grad school.

    I do worry about how hard it is to make a living in the field, but I know from personal experience that it is more fulfilling personally than any other track I was ever on. So I get why Rebecca keeps coming back to it as the arena that interests her most.

    xoxo,

    H.

    Helena Rosenberg, MFT

    25500 Hawthorne Blvd. Ste. 1220 Torrance, CA 90505 & 9171 Wilshire Blvd. Ste. 670 Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (310) 226-6161

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  4. I have had issues with taking off a sweater or sweatshirt only to find my c.i. on the floor. The wind whistling through my high powered h. a. is also an issue.

    I wear a handband that covers my ears and on a cold day add a hat. It does muffle sound but my h.a. and c. i. are protected and it is not like I haven’t dealt with muffled sound for years.

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  5. I wear a lot of pullovers, some with hoods. It doesn’t take an engineer to see the problem here. With eyeglasses, CI and HA, I have learned to at least remove the glasses. Usually I still try to sneak the CI when pulling a hoodie over my head. Your ferry story takes the prize. I don’t see a solution to this problem on the horizon. I am sure that somewhere beyond the rainbow there will be devices we can not imagine that will be more secure. For now we must be diligent and grateful for the technology and the devices that, though fragile as they are, give us a level of hearing we would not otherwise have.

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  6. Barbara, if you’d be willing and OK with Katherine it would be so helpful to hear of your journey towards a cochlear implant and also your experience after. I am getting close!
    Erica Jacobs, or feel free to get in touch privately at ejacobs2424@gmail.com

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