Monday, January 17, 2011

What's It Like to Experience Simulated Hearing Loss?

"I'm listening" by Melvin Gaal
In this article from the Daily Mail, Barney Calman takes on a challenge from Specsavers to wear the same specially modulated earplugs that their audiologists wear to simulate hearing loss. It's a very interesting article, a look at how a 31-year-old man with typical hearing for his age copes with hearing loss for a day. Especially interesting is the fact that he is a musician and expects to possibly have some hearing loss in the future.

There were a couple of things I really liked from the article. They are things that are immediately apparent when you are deaf, but difficult for people with normal hearing to grasp.
  • The fact that it takes Barney a few moments to even realize anyone is speaking to him. I do this all the time. It is particularly bad working with the public who don't seem motivated to actually let you know you're the one they're addressing and not their cellphone, friend, handbag or the sign next to them.
  • The way he yells to the cabdriver without realizing it, and worries about crossing roads but soon realizes it's not that big a deal.
  • And finally: the way he realizes immediately that it's exhausting!
"As we say our goodbyes I have to focus on what he is saying  -  it becomes tiring almost immediately," he says. And then, later, "I have to take a second or so to mentally process what a person says before I can reply, and it is exhausting.

"After work, I have a business dinner with a PR at a busy Central London restaurant. With the loud chattering and clinking around me it is even harder to make out my companion's voice. By the end of the meal, which takes a long time as I have to stop eating to concentrate fully to hear, I am drained from focusing so hard."

I remember having to wear "drunk goggles" in school to simulate how normal activities become difficult when you're impaired. Wouldn't it be interesting for students and adults alike to try these plugs or even glasses that simulate levels of blindness? I'd try the blindness ones! (And probably freak out a lot.)


  1. At my elementary school they would have a special day every year devoted to simulating special needs/disabilites. Everything from blindness to deafness, autism to asthma, to not being able to use your arms or legs. It really was an interesting experience.

  2. PinkLAM - that sounds really interesting! I wish my school had done something like that.

  3. That's quite an intriguing thought! It reminds me of several expressions such as "Walk in the footsteps of ...", "Put yourself in their shoes...", and etc.

    The experience is supposed to have a profound effect on your outlook on life and enhance your humanity and humility.

    PinkLAM, that's a great idea. More schools should try that. Thanks for bringing that up.


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