Mudcat Café message #899315 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44196   Message #899315
Posted By: Allan C.
26-Feb-03 - 02:26 PM
Thread Name: Musicians with Hearing Aids
Subject: RE: Musicians with Hearing Aids
I spent a horrid amount of money about five years ago for some Miracle Ear aids - the dinky little ones that are inserted in the canals. I am diagnosed with "high hearing loss", meaning that I cannot hear some of the high frequency sounds. (I'm reasonably sure the cause had something to do with being required to operate a jack-hammer inside of an underground concrete vault without proper hearing protection, but who is to say?) Fortunately, my problem is very minor and I can (and do) usually function fairly well without the use of the aids. Some of you might not know what that mean in practical terms and so I will attempt to explain what it is like for those of us who have this problem.

Consonant sounds such as {f and v,} {t, p, k and d,} and s are particularly difficult to discern under certain circumstances because of the high-frequency sounds that are part of what makes them different from one another. Pick a sentence or two from what I have written so far and write them down in pencil. Now erase all instances of those letters I named. Yes, if you look carefully, you can usually still figure out the words; but it isn't very easy. Now, imagine doing that mentally with every sentence you hear. You are getting close to understanding the concept.

The difficulty for many of us who have this problem is that without the use of aids, we find ourselves trying to decipher one sentence (context often offering the chief clues) while the next one is being spoken. Quickly, we get too far behind to be able to make sense of what we have taken in. The more background noise there is, the more difficult the task becomes. We come to rely heavily on reading lips to get a better idea of which sounds are being formed.

It may be hard for you to imagine how exhausting this all can be. I once worked in a convenience store in which lottery tickets were sold. Folks ordering those tickets are not very forgiving when you punch the wrong numbers for them. But fifteen can sound so very much like fifty, you know. And sixty might actually be fifty unless I am lip reading. The level of concentration I had to maintain at all times in order to keep from mishearing someone wore me to a frazzle long before the workday was done.

I have found that there are some people whom I can't hear very well at all without my aids. Sadly, they are all women. I think it may be because some of them speak with especially breathy voices, making it even more difficult to discern consonant sounds.

I can't hear whispers very well. If you stop to think about it, whispering relies very heavily on the consonant sounds, right? So when my lover (Okay, let's assume I have one for the purposes of this discussion, okay?) whispers something at an intimate moment, I will probably have to spoil the moment by asking her to repeat it unless I am wearing my aids.

Most of you who sing know that when singing in a group or in certain other situations when you need to hear yourself, you simply put a finger in one ear. However, let's consider the consequences of putting fingers in both ears. In doing so, you can hear yourself rather loudly, but in an extremely resonant way that is not otherwise possible (without the use of an amplification system). This is nice; but you would quickly find yourself not knowing how loudly you are singing. This is one of the problems with trying to sing while wearing in-the-canal hearing aids. Actually, it can be a problem in everyday conversation as well. For this reason I never wear my aids when I think I might be needing to sing.

Trying to tune my guitar without the use of one of those wonderful Intellitouch devices has become just a little difficult unless I am wearing my aids. I am not really quite sure why. I can usually manage to get somewhere in the general range of the correct pitches; but I think I must not be hearing the finer differences anymore.

I am remembering the first time I tried out my new hearing aids. Suddenly I discovered that I could hear the rush of air through the store's heating ducts. I know that may not seem very impressive to you; but it simply amazed me!

I am sure I don't wear my hearing aids as often as the situation calls for them. In fact, I rarely ever wear them. I feel lucky to still have such an option. The odd thing is (and I have spoken to other aid wearers who have experienced the same thing) after wearing the aids for a period of time, say a week or two, it seems as though my ears somehow re-learn how to hear some of the sounds I have been missing.

My favorite time to wear my aids is when I am walking in the woods and fields. I can hear distant bird chirps, cricket singing and even the rustle of leaves that might otherwise be hidden from my ears. That is so very special for me!