As an audiologist, I think a lot about how sound and how it affects hearing health. Background noise particularly important to take into consideration when adjusting my patient’s hearing aids. I recently realized there was a pattern to the sounds of our community in Danbury, Brookfield and New Fairfield following a recent damaging storm on May 15, 2018.
Quiet after the Storm
In the hours following the storm, I remember sirens. As I drove to pick up my child at daycare, andattempted, unsuccessfully, to drive home, it seemed the air around me was filled with sirens. Up and down Federal Road, Newtown Road, up What I didn’t hear was the honking of horns. The roads were snarled with traffic as we all tried to get to our loved ones. Stop lights were dark. Cars stood at a standstill, and yet, I did not hear a single honk of a horn. It seemed civility and neighborliness persevered in this most stressful moment in our community.
That first night, it was quiet: strangely quiet. There was no traffic in our community because the roads were impassable. I remember standing outside on the deck and noticing there weren’t even any insect sounds. A steady quiet settled over our neighborhood. The quiet wouldn’t last long.
The Sound of Machinery
In the week that followed the storm, there was a cycle of chainsaws in the daytime and generators at night. I was acutely aware of the hour or two in the early morning when the generators had all run out of gas and no one was out cutting up logs yet. Other than those two hours of quiet, there was a constant din of generators or the whine of chainsaws echoing throughout the Candlewood Valley.
Once the roads and yards were mostly clear, the sound of wood chippers replaced most of the chainsaws. A majority of homes had power restored and the constant sound of generators faded away. From time to time that week, did you walk by a house to see that they still had a generator running? When I happened upon those folks, I was filled with regret for their situation. I also felt a twinge of guilt that I was able to cook for my family, bathe my children without inconvenience, while my neighbors were still running on gas power.
Have you noticed the final chapter of sounds of the storm? In this last week, more than two months after the storm, we hear the sounds of nail guns. Insurance checks have (hopefully) come through. People are rebuilding roofs, patching holes in the sides of their homes. The sound of roofers installing shingles is the sound of renewal and rebuilding. To me, it sounds like healing.
Audiologists field a lot of complaints of background noise. We find ourselves programming hearing aids to reduce background noise as much as possible, to give patients the best speech understanding possible. But in the last two months, the meaning behind the background noise of the May storm has come into sharp focus. May we all stay in tune to the wealth of sound around us, and keep close to ourselves the meaning that sound holds.
Jocelyn Dore, Au.D.
Dr. Dore is a licensed audiologist with Advanced Audiology & Hearing Aid Services. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Science in Audiology from Southern Connecticut State University. She earned a Doctorate Degree in Audiology from George S. Osborne College of Audiology, Salus University. Dr. Dore is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She is a resident of New Milford. She practices in the Danbury, New Milford, Ridgefield and Southbury offices.