Leviticus 19:14 Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
I have been asked to write about my hearing for Hearing Loss Association of Washington State because, well, I hear differently than most. But where do I start? Also how technical should I get?
My hearing loss is called Audio Processing Disorder. And for many years my hearing has been a bit of a mystery. It’s like having hearing ears but a deaf brain. Yet I have never thought of myself as disabled by it.
When I was beginning to talk, my parents noticed I was talking as if I was hard of hearing. However I was found to have perfect hearing. So I was given an IQ test and that too was very good. So I was given lots of speech therapy.
Grade school was difficult. Sometimes I did the wrong homework. Or no homework. Spelling was very difficult. How can I sound out the words if so many letters sound the same. “You mean b d e p really do have different sounds? And if all the letters have different sounds then why is ‘laugh’ spelled l-a-u-g-h and ‘calf’ is c-a-l-f? Let’s not forget ‘elephant’! Why does ‘spelled’ sound like ‘spelt’?” I do hear, but what am I hearing?
When the music teacher brought in the record player and played some music, she would ask, “Hear the ‘something’ instrument?” I never could. “Is it ‘this’ instrument, or ‘that’ instrument?” they both sounded the same for me. My wife says I often can’t hear harmony.
Here is another problem I had, but with arithmetic. On paper it was easy. I had little to no problems. But on the blackboard I had problems. (Yes kids, once a long, long time ago the white board was black and we wrote on it with white chalk.)
I would hear the teacher say “Add 50” so I would write 50. “4 plus…” What?? Now I have to erase the zero and replace it with a four? I would look at the other kids, but they would always write the correct number the first time. How?
After a while I decided that she would always pause in the middle of the number. So when I went to the blackboard next time with 5 other kids, I heard something like “40” OK I write down four waiting for the next digit. “Plus 27” What?? Again?? How would the other kids know she would only say 40? For many years I couldn’t understand how. But I believe I have an understanding now.
A few years ago I had a bad reaction to some medicine. I wrote a little about this in my post Bad Medicine. Anyway when I was recovering from the effects of the drug, my doctor sent me to a specialist to test my cognitive thinking. Even though I was still recovering, I was already testing just in the high average. The specialist also told me that I definitely had characteristics of someone with an audio processing disorder.
I was told that when my brain senses a gap in communication, it takes it as a lack of information. My brain would then try to fill in that gap with something that would make sense whether it was said or not.
This may explain why I had difficultly doing math problems on the blackboard with the teacher saying the numbers. It also explains why I had trouble learning Morse Code. If someone sent ..-. would that really be an ‘F’ or did I hear a slight pause making it .. ‘I’ -. ‘N’ for ‘IN’. What if someone sends the word ‘FOX’ which is ..-. — .–. I may hear ..-..—-.–.. In other words I would just hear noise.
Music is another problem. I don’t hear the beat. I can’t clap to the beat. Yet I wonder if I hear things others don’t. For an example, there is an old TV show called Airwolf. When the helicopter on television went into ‘high-performance-mode’ I would hear this horrible sound. I know it’s supposed to sound ‘cool’ to most people, but I hated it. To me it was a loud screeching noise and it sounded like all the bearings were locking up.
By the way, I never liked loud. I was the weird kid in high school who never played the music loud. And even though my hearing loss was only about 3-5 db, it’s now about 30-35 db loss and I still don’t like loud noise. I wear hearing protectors a lot when I work.
And this brings us to the use of assisted listening devices. I do use them. A lot. Without captioning on TV, I miss a lot. Same with movies. In church I use the FM system not for amplification (although I may a little) but to block unwanted sound. If I use a single ear-bud, my understanding is poor. However if I use a headphone or dual ear-buds, they help to block out unwanted sounds then I can adjust the volume to the ‘center of my head’. As far worship music goes, I avoid it. It’s loud. That’s when I have coffee.
Oh yes, I also speech read a lot which is different from lip reading. Lip reading is difficult. Speech reading is much easier as it involves the whole face as well as body language. I wrote a little about this in my post named, Lip Reading?.
So this is a little insight of my rare hearing. I realize many ‘hearing people’ will still have no understanding of this. I’m different, I know. I’m even different from most hard of hearing people.
Since rare often equals exotic, I like to look at it as having exotic hearing. And since hearing aids are worthless for me, and cochlear implants would have devastating effects on me, think of all the money I save!