Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Naturalists

First of all, I have known many people with hearing loss, none developed dementia.

any deaf or hearing impaired people I know of just work with what they have. I have vision impairments (weird ones) and just use what I can see as opposed to worrying about what I can’t see.

Sometimes, we just can’t do what someone else does. Disabilities are real. I have plenty and they affect everything I do. I am NOT “differently abled” I literally can’t do some things. It’s not something I feel to hide or relabel. It’s just facts.
I use what I can and do my best.
There are tools, with varying degrees of usefulness, which can help identify birds by sound. Most birds can be identified by sight and location.

I actually have the opposite problem with hearing.
I have hypersensitive hearing and the part of my brain that filters things to “conscious” or “subconscious” processing doesn’t work properly.
I end up unable to tell what I am hearing because there is to much information to process.
I use noise canceling headphones and that basically renders me temporarily deaf so I still can’t tell what is going on, sound wise.
so I addapt. using what I CAN see and hear. There’s no way around it. It is harder to do these things. But it’s still fun and we get some pretty good observations.

that’s my view of the subject.


Firstly, I like your philosophy for living well with disability and think that attitude would serve many of us well (especially as we age and accrue a few extra disabilities :face_holding_back_tears:)

As a senior, I tend to follow studies for older adults. FWIW, the scientific community has a consensus that hearing loss and cognitive impairment are linked in older adults.

Mayo clinic


Why do I have a feeling that “differently abled” is a term that someone not living with a disability came up with? I haven’t replied to this thread before now because hearing loss is not my disability, but I just want to thank you for saying this.

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Oh, that’s a definitive study. I’m sure the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and others would be interested to know this.

Meh. The research I had read, was more, starting with demented patients and inferring backwards that hearing loss was a factor. Not convinced, thanks.
Or - you know - people who want to sell hearing aids, and services - you NEED this!


Being HOH I had find myself mentally detaching from my immediate surroundings when I get overwhelmed by all the stimulation. My hearing difficulties include hearing loss as well as constant tinnitus and bouts of Hyperacusis ( when sounds are too loud, some nearly painful)
It can be just as exhausting with aids to filter out all the noise as it was to struggle to hear what was needed.
I think the researchers will find repeated detachment from the environment because of hearing and processing difficulty to be a link of symptoms relating to dementia.


Hey all, please refrain from giving others any medical advice!


The link between hearing loss and dementia is quite well established in many studies at this point. There are both observational and experimental data to support a causal link.
Observational evidence includes showing that not just that hearing loss and dementia are related, but that severity of hearing loss is positively correlated with incidence of dementia.

Experimental evidence includes showing that experimentally giving hearing aids to people with a high risk for dementia lead to a large reduction in cognitive decline. So restoring hearing function helps prevent dementia, which is a great finding, as hearing aids are a comparatively cheap intervention (even if they don’t work perfectly).

Some general sources which provide some links to peer-reviewed studies:


I feel weird being the only person cringing at loud noises in many contexts, and avoiding concerts or wearing earplugs, but I would rather listen to birds…


I avoid crowds, everywhere. And my definition of crowd often starts with 3… 3 is a crowd. And you are NOT alone! Nor did you notice me slipping my hearing aids into my pocket….


I am actually profoundly deaf, as in: stone deaf - I have no residual hearing at all naturally. However, from young I was fortunate enough to have a mother who managed to get me cochlear implants (first on one side, and then, later, the other side). It’s been quite a journey since then. Both the quality of my hearing, and my hearing comprehension have steadily improved over time.

My audiologist has also always encouraged me to wear my cochlear implants as much as possible.

There have been times where I have been a bit overstimulated from sound and taken my cochlear implant processors off to manage that. I’ve also taken my processors off if I don’t want to hear annoying repetitive sounds, such as dogs barking non-stop or DIY enthusiasts banging away with a hammer next door. There’ve been times when I didn’t want to listen to certain people either :joy:

I also sleep without my processors - it can be a clear advantage, such as the time when I was in a school camp as a kid and the other kids were being extremely noisy on the first night to the point where many could not sleep while I slumbered through it all. It’s a superpower I have haha!

I DO love listening to birds, the sound of water, and other sounds of nature. I do find that it can be a bit depressing to be completely deaf for too long. I also need the stimulation from hearing. It’s all very hard to describe as it’s mostly gut feelings and emotion, but I hope you get what I mean.

It’s always been my preference to wear my cochlear implants, because hearing is a privilege and joy for me. I am still 100% deaf and will always be deaf - cochlear implants are not a cure for deafness; they are a tool to enable me to hear.

There will be times when it might become too much and I need to take a quick break from it, and there will be times when I wish I could hear more with my cochlear implants. My cochlear implants prevent me from certain activities such as diving deep underwater, but these also enable me to hear the sounds of nature and to hear and interact with people verbally and over the phone. It’s all about trade-offs but honestly I am grateful for what I do have.


you arent the only one! loud noises overwhelm my one poor hearing ear, lol. birds sound better


I do the same.
a lot of people wonder why I plug my ears and they say things like “you act like you’re in pain” with some noises and not with others that are “just as loud”
It isn’t acting, it’s actually pain and loud isn’t the only factor. Usually the “just as loud” things are not just as loud either.
It depends, to a great degree, on what else I have been exposed to and if I have had time to recover.


This is why I love iNat forum.
I find out I’m not alone. My struggles are shared by you, making them a little lighter.
You give me more ways of coping, and courage to keep going.
Thank you.


I’m glad you are able to find encouragement here.

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I have found - you are not alone - and useful info - on a FB group for Single Sided Deafness. Thanks to them I discovered Ear Planes - and the last 4 flights didn’t leave me with blocked uncomfortable ears.
Something else I considered, if I were going into a noisy environment - is musician’s earplugs.


Thanks. I feel like most people are pretty awesome, whatever level of ability or disability they have. It’s nothing to hide. It’s part of being human. Diversity makes us a wonderful species.

I’m not disputing or agreeing with the research. I am simply stating a fact about the MANY people I know or have known, who have varied degrees and types of hearing loss or impairment.

I was told that at least one person was being “rudely sarcastic” in response to what I said. admittedly, I don’t know if they are. I tend to take things too literally and assume that people are good and have good intentions.
Whatever is the case, thank you for being nice.


It’s interesting how similar this is to neurodivergent audio hypersensitivity and the problems it can cause.


Thanks, I’m not really here anymore after the events this past June but logged in to post a bug; and saw the tag. Happy to help others of us who struggle :)

To add to that older post, I have since had my first successful bird find. It took about 45 minutes, but I managed to find a red bellied woodpecker with the use of Merlin. I have hearing loss in both sides due to otosclerosis, and one side is worse than the other. My directionality is non-existant (and often 90-180 degrees off when I try, so I don’t bother!) hence it taking so long to find the loud pecking. The call ID’d from Merlin, and then visual ID once found.

I don’t think I will ever get into birding, it is too frustrating. But it is doable? If they stick around long enough. That was my first success in over a year of trying sooooo…was nice to see I can, but the persistance vs payoff wasn’t worth it to me.

In the US, most insurances including mine do not cover hearing aids and I cannot afford them. I need high quality ones with the work I do, and it isn’t worth getting cheap ones.

Saw a ‘murmeration’ (not starlings, but not sure what else to call it) recently, didn’t even hear anything, but it was pretty to watch :) my partner assures me it was very noisy!

With general field work (cave biology) luckily caves are kinda quiet for background noise; and the people I work with know if they don’t get a reply to get my attention so I can focus / lip read. Basic accommodation, haha. The university doesn’t even pay for live CC option on lectures which I’ve yelled at them for. I won’t pretend it isn’t a struggle, it is, and it is frustrating AF even though the people in the lab and such are good. We make it work best as we can.


I’d like to share a suggestion for “observing” birds and other animals with hearing loss.
When I see or think I hear a bird, if I don’t have a companion to confirm the bird call/song, I just hit record on my voice recorder on my phone. I use the free app Audacity to increase the volume of all my recordings. In a quiet location I use earbuds to listen to the now louder recording and can then clip segments out to submit for ID.
A related tangent: I haven’t seen anyone mention EMF sensitivity on this forum’s “disability” discussions, but if anyone knows a source of hearing aids without bluetooth, or with a shielded battery, I’d love to hear about it. When I am anywhere near a radio-frequency device, I develop screaming tinnitus which drowns out voices and other sounds. Due to this and other symptoms from EMF exposure, I live in a remote area. Relocating from a city environment renewed my interest in nature and iNaturalist has been a wonderful way to share what I see and (sometimes) hear in my mostly quiet mountain environment.
I appreciate the candor and compassion among iNat users, and the continued emphasis on respect in our interactions.