Thursday, February 28, 2008

Do what?

I'm hearing right and wrong so clearly
there must be more than this
it's only in uncertaintythat we're naked and alive

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I'm practically deaf. At least, I'm sure it seems that way. During any given conversation, my friends generally hear me say the words, "I'm sorry?", "Do what?", "What was that?", "What, What?!" or some variation at least three times. At the very least. Corey kind of likes it because he says he usually has a chance to change his wording. :^p Cheeky man.

When I was about 19, I had my tonsils cut out. The ENT who did the tonsillectomy ran a number of tests on me including a hearing test. He discovered that I'm way below average at certain pitches (mostly high pitches, and a few of the really low pitches), and he even ran a few additional tests for some sort of hearing disorder that tends to strike 19-year-old women, but that came out negative. I barely even noticed the problem until I was about 26 or 27, and since then it's just gotten worse.

Anytime I tell my mom about some event in which I had to ask someone to repeat him or herself, she understands. She has the same problem. Both of us have an especially hard time in noisy surroundings. Sounds combine and become distorted and we either don't hear what's being said or we hear things that aren't there. This happens to me CONSTANTLY. Most often, it happens when I'm in the bathroom and either the water's running or the heater or air conditioner is running. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten out of the shower to see if I'd left a radio on because I often think I hear music. I embarassed myself in front of a lot of the men in our noisy shop at work a couple weeks ago. I was standing in one of the dock doors about halfway outside, and I swore I heard my office manager call somebody on the intercom. When I asked the men what she said, they looked at me like I was nuts and then laughed their asses off at me.

I don't know that it's bad enough yet to go back to the ENT with the problem. I guess I'm partially afraid he'll have me in a hearing aid before you can say "feedback." All I know is that it is highly obnoxious. I feel horrible when I have to ask folks on the phone at work to repeat themselves, and I feel really horrible when Corey says something I don't hear and he says "nevermind" when I ask him to repeat himself. I'm afraid I look horribly rude when I get tired of asking folks to repeat and end up filling in the blanks or only half-listening. It gets exhausting sometimes.

Luckily, I don't seem to have much of a problem with the medical transcription. I suppose it helps that the sound is right there in my ear and the earphones obstruct a little bit of ambiant noise. I have noticed a marked difference between my right and left ears thought. My right is much worse, and I think my mom's right ear is worse too. We laugh together when one of us sees the other turn her head to put the "good ear" in better range of the person who's speaking. Clearly this is a hereditary thing.

The strangest thing of all, though, is that sometimes - after a yawn usually - I seem to have super hearing. Either that or regular hearing sounds super to me. This used to lead me to believe all my problems would be solved with a bit of a professional ear cleaning, but anytime I've had that done, it fixed the problem long enough for me to leave the doctor's office.

I also used to think that the size of my ears contributed (I have really small ears). But I've since taken a class in which I was subjected to the obnoxious instructor's questioning about what she called my "hearing loss." I suppose she thought I was a kindred soul since she had hearing problems as well. In any case, she raised the point about a disorder in which two of the middle ear bones become fused or stuck and therefore don't efficiently carry the sound to your ear drum - which leads to (you guessed it) distortion in middle ranges.

Anyway, now that I've rambled, I come to the point. The next time you're annoyed by someone asking you to repeat something or by their habit of turning their head when you speak to them, just remember that they're every bit as annoyed (if not moreso) as you are.

I couldn't find a video of "That Voice Again" by Peter Gabriel (from whence my opening quote came), but I love this song and this video - "Red Rain." Gotta give the man serious props.


  1. First, found your blog by randomly looking for people who like Townes Van Zandt. He's just been on my mind recently and I felt like reading what people who like his music have to say about things.

    Second, the Peter Gabriel's "Secret World Live" with Paula Cole is unbelievable. Red Rain is followed by Blood of Eden, and if you're not moved by it you might be dead. Check the DVD out if you haven't seen it. Sadly, "Voice" is not on the record.

    Finally (and most relevantly), I think I can relate to what you're talking about here, though from a different angle. My wife has a tendency to speak very softly, and I used to find myself asking her to repeat herself a lot. It's a gap we've long-since bridged, but it's a little shocking what a wedge that kind of thing can drive between people.

    As a writer, I expect you can make use of the problem metaphorically. People talking past each other, unable to connect, that sort of thing. Makes me think of Walker Percy or Saul Bellow maybe. Though of course that doesn't make it any less of a nuisance in life.

    Enjoyed the post!


  2. I have used the lack of hearing thing to a literary advantage, although probably not as well as I could. It's definitely a point of inspiration and something to work on.

    And my boyfriend has a very soft, deep voice too, so at the beginning of our relationship it was a bit of a strain. He's since figured out how to raise the volume a touch for me.

    I'll look into the Gabriel thing too. I just love him. He's just so passionate - unlike anyone else (that I can think of off hand) in the biz.

  3. Oh - I forgot "Don't Give Up." Paula Cole singing on that will rip your heart out. She has just the right edge, between strength and pleading.

    thx for the comment on the TVZ essay! I'll respond there.


  4. I have a similar problem, but my hearing loss is actually from a head injury. /shrug

  5. It's okay J-fer. We still love you. We just get used to either talking really loud or repeating ourselves :D


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