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What It’s Like For Formerly Deaf People to Hear Something for the Very First Time

‘I screamed when I first heard a toilet flush’

As you know, hearing aids and cochlear implants — electronic devices that basically replace damaged inner ears — can miraculously allow previously deaf people to hear. But something you might not consider if you’ve never been deaf is that hearing a sound for the first time can be a shocking experience to say the least. This appears to be the consensus from the many responses to this Reddit thread that asks formerly deaf people which noises surprised them the most (sic, obviously, throughout).

Boobs, Paper and Cats

“My friend’s sister was very hard of hearing nearly deaf,” commenter xilstudi explains. “She got cochlear implants. At work, I was asked to help her pair her implants with her new phone (because they’re freaking bluetooth). While I’m doing this, she’s happily telling me how sensitive they are: ‘I can hear paper!’ She had no idea that paper sliding on paper made a noise. She then told me that she could hear her hand sliding on the wall, and that cats annoyed her because sometimes they made a sound, but sometimes they just made the action with no sound. But then, out of the blue, she says, ‘What’s weird is that boobs don’t make noise. You really think they would.’ I lost it. I cracked up.”

Wind and Toys

“I thought the wind would make a super loud whoosh sounds, but it doesn’t, so that was lame,” commenter McScrumpy writes. “Also, I thought my toys were silent, but oh boy, they were super loud. That explains why my parents hated them.”


My wife refused to get hearing aids for years,” commenter Tall_Mickey writes. “We bought a house that has a four lane highway out back. I tolerate noise well. When she came home with her new hearing aids, she went out to the backyard, came back and asked me, ‘Why did you let us buy this house?!’”


“After getting my one hearing aid yes, if you just need it on one side, do get it: It’s life-changing I stood by my bed and made the blankets crinkle for, like, probably too long,” commenter lesserantilles writes.

Pissing, Shitting and Horror Movies

“When I got my implant, I didn’t realize how loud peeing can be… and pooping,” very accurately named commenter DeafLady writes. “I turn my implant/aid off when I go into bathroom, especially the public bathroom. Another is how important sound is for horror movies. I kinda liked thriller-horror movies, but when I started watching the Japanese movie, The Grudge, after I got an implant, I realized that I was only getting half of the experience. For example: At the beginning, the ghost boy went across the screen really fast, which was a bit scary. But when I heard the uh… zoom… sound when he did that, it scared the shit out of me, and I couldn’t continue watching.”


“My deaf students had trouble understanding sarcasm, because it’s all about intonation,” commenter maruffin explains. “One of them got aids that really helped, and she was shocked to find out that ‘cute shirt’ could mean the exact opposite.”

Keyboards, Mouses and Pens

“I once wore my hearing aids while at the office,” commenter Steffchen writes. “Urgh, I hate all those clicking noises! Every mouse, keyboard, pen clicking… argh! I normally wear them only at gatherings, meetings and such: When it’s important to understand each other. Otherwise, I just enjoy some sweet silence.”


“The sound of water for me,” commenter Nickrobl writes. “I’m not deaf, but I’m very hard of hearing, so when my hearing aids are out, I get a sorta dull background noise when there’s sound around. Anyway, growing up, whenever there was water around, I always had to have my hearing aids out. Finally, one day, I was near a pool but not swimming, and couldn’t believe how clear and crisp the water sounded. To this day, pools and lakes are still a unique sound for me. Heck, even a bathtub. I love listening to water.”


“I screamed when I first heard a toilet flush,” commenter kmw7 emphasizes.

The Entire World

“I was born severely hearing impaired, and got my first hearing aids at 12 years old,” commenter stopstaringatmeswan4 writes. “Honestly, just about every noise surprised me. I wasn’t prepared for how obnoxiously loud the whole world is. My hearing aids practically turned me into a librarian I just walking around shushing everything and everyone.

“The audiologist gave me my hearing aids for the first time and wrote something down, then put her pen on the desk. I just about jumped a mile. It sounded like she slammed it as hard as she could, but she just placed it down. I got up to walk out and thought I ripped my pants because of the noise, but it was just my windbreaker rubbing on itself. The laughing child in the waiting room caused me actual physical pain from the strength of the noise. I closed the car door and waited for my dad to yell at me for slamming it, because it was so loud. It sounded like what I imagined a gunshot would sound like, but I didn’t actually slam the door. My dad started the car, and I thought there was something wrong with the engine: How could a car sound so loud and not have anything wrong with it? The car was fine. The radio came blaring on, and I finally understood why my parents were always telling me to turn that damn volume down. People actually listen to this painful shit for fun?

“I was almost in tears by the end of dinner. The cutlery scraping against the plates made me want to tear my hearing aids out and stomp them to pieces. I thought my mom was angry when she was cleaning up after dinner and slamming everything around. She wasn’t angry.

“After dinner, three hours after I got my hearing aids, I was thoroughly overwhelmed and decided to go to my room, take my hearing aids out and get some peace and quiet. I closed the door to my room and heard a quiet, almost peaceful sound. It was the first sound I heard that I didn’t hate. I spent a long time searching for the source of the noise before I realized it was coming from outside. It was the sound of the rain. It never even occurred to me that rain would make noise. I mean, those tiny little drops are practically weightless. How could they possibly make noise? I just sat there and listened to the rain for hours. If it hadn’t been raining that day, there’s a good chance that I would have never worn those hearing aids again.

“It’s been 30 years since then, and I’ve grown more accustomed to how loud everything is, but I still get overwhelmed in noisy situations sometimes. I love coming home after a long day, taking my hearing aids out and just basking in the peace.”