Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thoughts on Sounds

Yesterday I decided to vaccuum after getting home from work. As I was finishing up and wrapping the cord up to the machine, I realized I could still hear a ringing in my ears. That's nothing new. My hearing aids have a problem with very loud sounds and entrainment, which leads to me often continuing to hear a sound at a similar frequency even after the sound itself is over. But the ringing just wouldn't go away. I frowned, left the room, and it stopped. After I put away the vaccuum cleaner, I came back to the room, and the ringing was happening again! I finally realized it must be an external sound and quickly located the battery backup hooked up to one of our computers, which was beeping insistently at me.

It usually takes me much longer than other people to figure out where a sound is coming from and what exactly it is. I think it was that same night that I jumped and had a scare when I heard a confusing cacophony of sounds - something like a wolf howling and drums, or something like that. I thought it was a "real" sound, i.e. something from outside or something breaking down. Nope. It was from the soundtrack of the video game that was on at the time. If my husband hadn't said so, it would have taken me forever to figure that out.

Since moving in to our new house I have had to make lots of adjustments to my expectations and the way I think about hearing. Our washer and dryer make noise when they finish a load - except I inevitably think the sound is coming from anywhere but the laundry room, and it takes me forever to figure it out. On the plus side, though, sound carries very well in the house. I would have never expected it, but I can hear the finishing beep even from our bedroom. It's been pretty easy to make out voices.

I know this type of thing comes really easily to hearing people. While I am wandering around at work trying to figure out what is making a certain sound, my coworkers have already identified it and where it is coming from. People I know can figure out if a sound is coming from the TV or if it's "real," and figure out what direction a sound is coming from.

I guess it's just one of those subtle things people (even me) rarely think about with deafness. It's easy to visualize large problems one might experience with hearing loss, like not being able to hear your child speak, but it's another to think about having trouble identifying sound sources and how it can sort of muddle things up.

What do you think?


  1. Apparently in-the-canal wearers get it worst (me) because the hearing aid stops the natural movement of sounds in the canal. I did notice a big difference when I wore IIC aids.

    Talking in a group of people is hard work, even if I've heard what was said I have to scan around to find out who said it and if I'm not quick enough them I'm kinda chasing the conversation around the group.

  2. You have articulated so clearly what is a common problem for me. I hate it when someone doesn't put the phone back on the charger. I hear it ringing but for the life of me can't locate the sound. Now, if they put flashing lights on the phone, maybe that would help!


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