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The Things I Can Hear

Those of us who are hard of hearing often get bogged down in what we can’t hear. Last year I decided to go the positive route and concentrate on what I can hear. At first I thought of stupid things like, “Yeah, I hear the toilet flush,” and “that’s garbage man and I can hear the truck from the back of the house.”

As a few days went by and it changed to things like “I heard that sentence without missing a word,” and gave myself a little pat on the back. Then I heard my cat meow when the house was quiet and I was close enough to him. Yes! I can still hear my cat meow, Sqeaker, in certain circumstances! (Thinking he had a squeaky meow, I later I realized it was just my hearing making him sound that way.) I spent about two weeks or so focusing on what I could hear and I felt better… but I fell back into old habits.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me how I was doing with my experiment with sounds I could hear. “Oh, well, umm, I forgot about it,” about I confessed. Maybe I should try it again he suggested. So I have.

One day as my boyfriend and I were leaving the house, I heard something I couldn’t place.

“What is that noise,” I asked him.

He listened for a few seconds. “The wind chimes,” he said.

I heard the wind chimes without my hearing aids!!! That is so cool.

Later as I drove down the canyon, I had my iPod on listening to some rock music. I always had trouble hearing the lyrics in one part of a song but that day I heard the confusing part and got the lyrics. “So that’s what they say!” I said to my empty truck. Amazing.

As I drive back and forth in town I keep the radio on, mostly on classic rock. Instead of spacing out or turning the radio down when the commercials or DJ comes on, I listen to see what words I can pick up. I have surprised myself a number of times hearing most of the commercial and understanding what they say. It’s a game for me now.

Then our HLA meeting had a speech pathologist as guest speaker. She talked about our brains forgetting sounds and having to retrain them to understand the sound again.  “What if part of forgetting sounds is giving up on them,” I thought. “Maybe keeping the positive frame of mind is a good.” So the experiment continues.

I am visiting my son in Arizona this week. He is going to the community college and taking ASL as his foreign language. After talking to one of my girlfriends here, I realized I knew the ASL teacher, sort of. I worked briefly with his wife a year before moving Utah. I had to pick up my son from his ASL class yesterday (his car was being worked on). The teacher was out wandering the parking and came over to talk to me. It turns out, he remembers me very well because when the girls first introduced me to him, they told him I was hard of hearing so he signed to me which of course I didn’t understand at the time.

We continued to chat and catch up, me sitting in my car, him standing and the wind blowing madly. In the middle of the conversation, I thought, “Hey I don’t have my hearing aids in and I’m understanding this guy completely. I haven’t even asked for a repeat yet.” Of course that made me nervous and I asked for a repeat a few minutes later. Was it because he had a good voice? Or because he looked right at me the whole time or am I better at lip reading than I thought? Again, I amazed myself.

So it’s been a fun experiment. It makes wonder, what else do I hear and not give myself credit for?

0 thoughts on “The Things I Can Hear”

  1. Yes, I agree with you 99% Chelle. You have to train your brain to listen even though sometimes it’s a strain. You got to be focused and use the best technology you have. Even sometimes, that don’t work in certain situations. The important issue I’m trying to address is that the brain gets into information overload after a while when you are concentrating on hearing. What I do is that I just excuse myself and go somewhere and relax by myself and my brain gets recharged.

  2. I know overload too. I have a two hour meeting once a month and the speaker, the president of the club, has a thick accent. When I leave that meeting it’s usually with a headache. I learn a lot and I catch most of it but it hurts.
    And there are certain situations that are just plain hard to hear in.

  3. Speech/Voice recognition will soon take care of that. It’s only a matter of time…we have to be patience.

  4. I catch myself being lazy with what I ‘can’ hear. I don’t hear my computer without headphones anymore, so I’m simply in the habit of muting the sound . The other day I realized I don’t even try to hear my computer anymore, even with headphones. Part of that is because listening with headphones has become a trigger for killer tinnitus, but also it’s just laziness. I recently was trying to watch “The Daily Show” online and it’s not captioned… I was missing a lot, even though I’m a good lipreader, so I plugged in my headphones and gave it a try. I caught much of what was said, and that surprised me. I realized my laziness was robbing me of sound that I can understand.

    I like your experiment, Chelle… it’s good when we force ourselves to be more mindful of what we actually can hear. I think because I’ve lost more hearing recently and do struggle quite a bit, the times when I realize “I’m hearing!” make me want to at least try to listen with my headphones instead of hitting the mute button. Like you, lately I’ve been thankful for all that I can hear, even when it’s the annoying things like the toilet flushing and a loud truck, because I don’t have much hearing left to lose and I figure I should make the most of it before it’s gone. ~~Michele

  5. I love this experiment. One of the things we’ve discussed on one of the cochlear implant lists I”m on is that sometimes after being in the “can’t hear” mode for so long, we tune out. We’re so used to not listening or paying attention because so much of what we hear is gibberish. Half the battle after getting the CI is training yourself to pay attention again.

  6. It’s been a good thing focusing on what I can hear. While hearing the toilet flush is unexciting at the moment, I could miss it later. When I was a teenager crickets annoyed the hell out of me but these days I wish I could hear them again. You never know so we might as well take advantage of what we have while have it.

  7. I guess this applies rather well to CI’s. The speech pathologist at our meeting talked about working with people who had trouble hearing with CI’s and she said to start simple even if it was reading and listening to a Dr Suess book. Our brains have to start over and people want to skip that part.

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