Ask an Audiologist: How Do I Block Out Annoying Sounds?

December 1st, 2016 | by Stephanie Loder | Audiologist
Ask an Audiologist: How Do I Block Out Annoying Sounds?

What if I hear too well?

Here at Hearing Solutions we normally receive inquiries about hearing loss and what to do about it.

We recently received an email from someone who was concerned she was hearing so well that she was picking up sounds that were making it difficult to focus on more important sounds. Hearing Solutions Audiologist, Stephanie Loder addressed the issue of background noise.

Ask an Audiologist

Is there such a thing as having better than average hearing? How can this be determined? Are there any devices that can cancel out annoying sounds in a classroom, but allow good sounds to come through, i.e., a teacher talking?

Audiologist Response

Thank you for your submission to Ask an Audiologist.

In Audiology, we consider the range of ‘normal hearing’ to be the ability to hear sounds that are 25 decibels (dB) or softer across the frequency range of 250-8000Hz. Whether a patient`s threshold for hearing is 20 dB or -5 dB, we would still consider that to be normal hearing. So there isn`t really such a thing as determining that a patient has ‘better than average hearing.’

In terms of improving the clarity of speech in the classroom, one option is an FM system. An FM system consists of a microphone worn by the speaker that transmits sound directly to an ear-level device(s) worn by one or more listeners. These devices can be helpful because the speech signal is transferred without as much interference from environmental sounds. For more information on how FM systems work in the classroom, visit the Phonak website. Another device mentioned on this website is a Soundfield speaker, which can be used to amplify the teacher`s voice over other sounds in the classroom.

Additionally, for improving acoustics in a classroom, I can give you some suggestions for reducing annoying noises. One of the simplest and most cost-effective solutions might be to put tennis balls under the legs of the classroom chairs to reduce the noise of chairs scraping on the floor.  Another suggestion is to add curtains, drapery or some absorptive material to the windows and/or walls to reduce reverberation (echoes) in the room. Acoustical Surfaces is another website that has some other good suggestions for improving acoustics in a classroom.

I hope that this information is helpful to you. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


Stephanie Loder, B.Sc., M.Cl.Sc., Reg. CASLPO Audiologist, Aud(C)

Stephanie is a registered Audiologist with the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario. Stephanie currently sees patients at Hearing Solutions’ Carlingwood Shopping Centre location in Ottawa.

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