Maybe this is why some people yearn for the chance to get away from everything as much as possible for a few days each year (annual vacation or long weekend) - by taking a camping or hiking trek in the mountains, going to the beach, having a sailing adventure, or doing something else that has less or as little noise as possible associated with it.
Although even with activities that are designed to get away from the normal noise or life and be relatively quiet by comparison, there is some noise - just at a much lower and more comforting or soothing level. The sound of the animals, the wind through the trees, the streams, waterfalls, or waves can be a welcome change from the daily noises we typically hear.
Whether someone lives in a brand new home or one that is several decades old, there are so many sounds associated with daily living that just can't be avoided - television, radio, refrigerator motors, fans, air conditioners, heaters, machinery, cars, horns, appliances, conversation, music, and more.
In urban environments, without even trying to be around them and nearly impossible to avoid, are such noisy sounds as garbage trucks, diesel engines, airplanes and helicopters, traffic, sirens from emergency vehicles, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, alarms, and bells from various sources.
Regardless of where someone lives, there are alarm clocks, door alarms, car radios or CD players, power tools, exhaust fans, timers that sound off when they get to where they were set to alert us, fireworks, engine backfires, and occasional explosions - in addition to other sounds and noises that are a daily occurrence.
Not all sounds are bad for us, and we couldn't function very well without them.
Nevertheless, the abundance of sounds and the collective volume level at times produces a noise level that is almost unpleasant. Long term exposure to very loud noises can even have health effects. It's suggested that one person-in-three over the age of 65 suffers from some type of hearing loss.
This means that as people age - and as we work with people as they are aging-in-place - accommodation needs to be made for hearing that is not as acute as when people were younger. Helping to reduce or eliminate noises in people's homes - especially ones that do not add to the quality of life or those required for safety - will add years of benefit and enjoyment to people's lives regardless of their current age. As they age, identifying and buffering noises that interfere with normal activities is as much a safety issue as one of comfort.
Hearing loss or hearing interference - not being to hear what should or needs to be listened to (news reports, verbal instructions or conversation, for instance) because other noise is interfering or competing with it or even drowning it out can be a somewhat serious concern. As aging in place professionals we need to be aware of the noise exposure and hearing challenges that people are facing so we can do our best to improve their situations and eliminate annoying, unnecessary, or harmful noises from their home living environment.
We may need to provide better insulation, sound proofing, or quieter appliances for them. Newer appliances likely will be more efficient and less expensive to operate as well.
Helping people to respond to audible clues when noise is a factor or when there is some hearing loss due to medication, illness, injury, or aging, adding other types of indicators can be helpful - lights that blink when an alarm goes off, a vibration that occurs when a timer reaches its notification point, or other types of sensory indications can compensate for hearing weakness - regardless of its origin or basis.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.