In our Winter 2009 issue, we ran an article headlined “Distress call from New Zealand”. Natasha S. had sent us an e-mail in which she expressed how much noise was bothering her, to the point that she had become suicidal. In our reply we tried to dissuade her from killing herself and offered advice about how to handle her difficult situation. Unfortunately, our reply message bounced back as “undeliverable” and we left it at that.
Now, a year later, Caleb Brown, of Donovan Boyd PR, who works with the National Foundation for the Deaf in New Zealand, had seen that article on our website and asked us for contact information. All we had was the original message and our reply. That was enough for Caleb to contact Natasha and to learn that she was quite alright. Caleb kindly forwarded Natasha’s reply she sent him. Please read her very slightly edited lines below.
I must say I was surprised to get your email, as that email I sent was over a year ago. I can understand your concern, as the tone of it is rather extreme.
Working as you do for the deaf must make it seem incomprehensible that anyone would want to make themselves deaf, as no doubt all those you work with would probably do anything to be able to hear. I actually have slight hearing loss (94% hearing in my left ear, 82% hearing in my right) and mild hyperacusis, which makes me intolerant of loud noise. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have 100% hearing again, but what I have is more than adequate. I don't think I'd want 100% hearing again in this noisy world.
I still hate with an absolute passion loud cars, barking dogs and thumping stereos. I still fantasize about blowing noisy cars up and locking up their antisocial drivers for life, but it's just a fantasy. I realise I have to live with it; it's not going to go away. I cope by wearing earplugs
nearly all the time. I only take them out at work. At least the traffic noise is the only source of annoying noise I have to live with, at this point in time.
At the heart of this problem with annoying noise (for society, not just myself) is basically selfish, antisocial people. Antisocial people buy loud cars and drive them in a way that maximises noise; antisocial people let their dogs bark on and on without caring about the effect on their neighbours; selfish people inflict their 'music' on others, etc.
If we could fix the antisocial elements in our society, we could cure the noise problem, as it really has got worse over the last few decades, as society has become more 'me-centred' and individualistic.
I don't feel suicidal any more, thank goodness, so you don't need to be concerned about that. I cope by using earplugs, as I've mentioned. I couldn't cope at all without them (I have custom made earplugs) unless I moved to a quiet place. I still would have to wear them when I walked down streets, as traffic noise is too loud. (Ever been out when a Harley Davidson bike roars by with straight pipes? Anyone without hearing protection probably has damaged hearing after one of those vile things goes past). Even sitting on a bus can get too loud, even with people not talking.
I realise I'm rather unusual, but that's the way it is with people who have hyperacusis. I thrive on silence, and can go for hours and hours happily with just the sounds of nature (wind, birds) and my own thoughts. Most people would have to put on loud music or have a companion to talk with. My basic personality is one that loves quiet, and the roar and bustle of modern life saps my energy unless I can block it out to a degree.
I hope you feel reassured by this email. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for your concern.