Background noise can be a nuisance for some, while others seem to thrive on it, and the more noise the better.
But for the hearing impaired, background noise can mean the difference between understanding what's going on and being thoroughly confused.
My husband, father and brother have each had some degree of hearing loss for much of their lives. Yet even though I have been surrounded by people who are hard of hearing, I don't know how the world sounds to them.
Purdue University has done some research on what this is like for the hearing impaired.
According to a Sept. 11, 2012 article on ScienceDaily.com said that 36 million adults in the United States have hearing loss to some extent.
Hearing loss can be caused by damage to the cochlea's sensory cells as well as to neurons in the cochlea. The cochlea is important because it changes sound into electrical transmissions to the brain.
Kenneth S. Henry, a postdoctoral researcher for the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at Purdue University, was one of the researchers. He indicated that in a quiet environment the cochlear neurons of people who are hearing-impaired operated adequately.
But in a noisy environment, the temporal structure experienced a decrease in coding ability by auditory nerve fibers. In other words, the hearing impaired have trouble making out what they're hearing in a noisy room.
In a room full of noise, channels of the auditory system are less focused and sharp for the hearing impaired. The auditory nerve fibers are less able to stay focused. Henry said that the neurons of the inner ear are spread too thin to do their job properly.
We knew that a room full of loud people poses a problem for those who are hard of hearing. This study gives more understanding as to what is going in within the hearing impaired ear.
The research may be helpful in the design of hearing aids and other equipment used by the hearing impaired. Improvements on design should focus on noise-reduction algorithms in a hearing aid, according to researchers, so that the auditory nerve can receive a clearer signal.