What being deaf sounds like

Sunday, 24 September 2017

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you'll have read that my hearing aid recently broke and is currently being repaired. Unfortunately a spare $5000 hearing aid doesn't sit in a drawer somewhere so I am without my other 'ear' for a week. This has caused me to spend a little time thinking about what it sounds like to be deaf, a strange concept to most I'm sure. I expect everyone's experience with hearing loss is different and I realise that there are many people out there doing it much tougher than I am, but if you are interested in what my world sounds like, please read on.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of my hearing loss is that it is only one ear. So I should just be able to hear with the other ear and move on, right? But as with most things in life, that is rarely the full story. So I've narrowed how it feels to be 'my' deaf to two descriptions, one literal and one figurative.

First, the literal description.

I'm unable to hear most sounds less than 100-110 decibels in one ear. That's about the same volume as a rock concert, so not much is getting through to my brain (take that either way, lol).

Now that may be difficult to imagine, but that is only what is going on in my middle ear. It's when we get to the inner ear that things get interesting.

Grab someone who's close by and get them to stand with their mouth about 2 inches away from your ear. Now get them to make a 'shhhhh' noise at a firm level into your ear.

And never stop.

Occasionally they can get really loud for an hour/day/week at a time but rarely quieter than that original level. And imagine that is almost the only sound getting through on that side.

Now your brain is trying to interpret all the other sounds going on around you from just one ear. That's a whole lot of sounds to sort through.  Driving you crazy yet? That's the best description I can give on my current level of hearing loss.

And figuratively?

Imagine you are wearing a big set of headphones.

And music is playing through them, but it's different music in each ear. One is a crazy busy piece of classical music; beautiful, but bloody complicated with lots of stuff going on.

And in the other ear? Norwegian death metal.

And you don't speak Norwegian.

And aren't really much on death metal either.

That pretty much sums it up, so next time you run into me and I insist on standing to the left of you or I just smile and nod at everything you say, you'll know why.


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