by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked,
How do you explain to people that you can only hear certain frequencies of sounds—that your hearing is very selective?
My friend, Michele, replied, “My favorite analogy is to use a music box—the kind that has the metal drum with the raised dots and tines that strike the drum as it rotates. (Most people have seen these clear music boxes that show the inner workings.) I explain that my hearing loss is much like a music box with broken tines. Imagine what it would sound like with all of the higher notes broken off and only 25% of the tines remaining. As the drum rotates I only hear every fourth note. This makes the music undistinguishable.
That’s how I hear—a bit here and a bit there. My hearing is hit and miss, but mostly ‘miss’. That’s why trying to hear with a hearing loss so tiring. My brain is constantly scrambling to make sense of the jumbled information that it’s receiving.
Most hearing people have no clue what hearing loss is really like. They think it’s a volume issue, which is partly true, but it’s more like your hearing has been pelted with buckshot that creates holes and gaps. The person with hearing loss has to learn how to make their brain fill in those holes and gaps. Many of us do that with lip/speech reading and other skills we’ve learned over the years.
One of the biggest things that got my family’s attention was listening to a hearing loss simulator as it clearly demonstrated to my husband how little I actually hear. He cried the first time I had him listen to what it sounds like to have a severe/profound loss.
Here are two hearing loss simulators I’ve used:
- This site only deals with mild and moderate losses, but has a great visual to demonstrate clarity: http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss/hearing_loss_simulator/index.cfm
- This site only demonstrates the difference in volume, not the additional distortions with sound quality that come with increasing hearing loss: http://www.starkey.com/hearing-loss-and-treatment/identify-hearing-loss/Hearing-Loss-Simulator“
To use these simulators effectively, set the volume to a comfortable level while listening to the recording of “normal” hearing. Then don’t touch the volume again as you listen to the various degrees and kinds of hearing loss. I think you’ll get an eye-opener (or should that be an ear-opener in this case)?