“Wait.” “You can hear that, but not this?” “Hold up.” “How’d you hear that?” “See?” “You can hear me.” “You heard me just fine yesterday though.” “Are you sure you’re hearing impaired?” Allow me to drop some knowledge about sound and how hearing actually works So that you can better understand why I can hear this but not that First off – When an object in our atmosphere moves it causes the air particles around it to vibrate this triggers more surrounding air particles to vibrate and to create a pulsating wave otherwise known as:
[claps hands] A soundwave with rapid fluctuations creates a high pitch tone Whereas a wave with fewer fluctuations create a low pitch tone The level of air pressure with each fluctuation determines how loud the sound is This is called: The reason why we hear different sounds from different objects is due to variations known as: The outside of your ear is designed as a funnel to help you channel these soundwaves However, contrary to popular belief We don’t actually hear with our ears We hear with our brain Whaaaaaaat? Let’s break it down even further When sound travels through the ear canal it is exposed to something in the cochlea region called a: Picture a keyboard ranging from high pitch to low pitch tones However, instead of keys, there are actually tens of thousands of tiny, hair-like fibers that vibrate when exposed to a specific sound frequency These hairs help determine what tones you are picking up This is a process called: The purpose of these hairs is to take these sound frequencies and convert them into electrical impulses and transmit them through nerves connecting to our brain’s It’s a completely mechanical process! The brain then has two main important jobs: One – determine where the sound is coming from And two – assign meaning to the sound “What am I hearing?” “Where is this coming from?” “Is this important?” “Am I in danger?” “Is this a pleasant sound?” Our ears are basically nothing more than a conduit Our brains do all the work But what does this look like for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people and some people with Auditory Processing Disorder? First off, it’s important to understand the difference between and With Conductive Loss, the cochlea region in the ear is working just fine However, it is not receiving soundwaves due to a problem in the Middle or Outer ear This can be caused by an ear infection or some other problem unrelated to the Inner ear With Sensorineural Hearing Loss it has to do with the eardrum itself Remember those teeny, tiny hairs I was talking about? The ones converting sound frequencies into electrical impulses? Well, they can’t do their job if they’re damaged or if they don’t exist, right? Yes, some of us are born without them Or not all of them When you don’t have hairs to pick up high pitched frequencies they’re not going to be able to transmit that information to your brain Therefore, you don’t hear high pitched sounds Some people refer to this as: But it gets more complicated than that Remember that keyboard metaphor that I keep bringing up? Well, imagine that twenty random keys are missing and whatever keys that you have left, that’s what you have to work with Whatever hairs that you have in your basilar membrane are going to transmit whatever sounds they can to your brain However, it is not going to be a full set of audial information that the average person receives It’s kind of like a puzzle with missing pieces You’re not going to hear certain sounds And if you do hear them, it’s going to come in all distorted and jumbled That’s when your brain has to rewire itself to compensate for not being able to hear by overlapping your other senses This is called: and it doesn’t come without any consequences Such as decreased cognitive functioning and potential difficulties with memory due to the increased output of energy put into understanding rather than actually processing the audial information In other words, a lot of us D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people and people with APD put so much effort into trying to understand what is happening now that we’re not actually processing the information I, myself, happen to be really good at recalling visual information and emotional content but when it comes to dialogue, I pretty much suck at it It’s not because I’m not listening It’s just that it’s really hard to listen and process information at the same time This makes trying to hear extremely tiresome for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people and people with APD We’re using up all of our extra energy reserves on a daily basis just to be able to get by Meanwhile, most hearing people don’t have to use up any extra energy unless encountered by an unusual situation like somebody who doesn’t speak their native language or being in a loud environment And while a lot of hearing people probably do get exhausted at the end of the day like the rest of us I’m willing to bet that most of them are not exhausted because of their hearing That is what we mean when we talk about: Also, fun fact Did you know that your eardrum has a reflex that allows you to tune out loud, low pitched noises? This is why two people can have a conversation at a rock concert or at a bar because their voices are a higher pitch than the background noises around them I sure as shit can’t do that So to address the question of why I can hear this and not that The answer’s pretty simple I’m just kidding. It’s not. In addition to expelling all this extra energy into hearing and processing the world around me You also have to understand that sound is not consistent You can control the volume on your phone or on your TV But you can’t control the volume of real life Not to mention the multitude of factors that affect sound frequencies and whether or not they can be processed “How far away is the sound?” “How clear is it?” “Certain sound frequencies are better picked up than others and they all vary across the board.” “How fast can your brain pick up these frequencies?” “Can it?” “What about all the surfaces that the sound is bouncing off of?” “How well can you fill in the blanks on the sounds that you can’t hear?” “What about body language?” “Facial expressions?” “Lip movement and whether or not they can be decoded?” “High pitches.” “Low pitches.” “Background noise.” “How tired am I right now?” “Am I even paying attention?” “Do I even care?” This is all happening simultaneously Every single day It doesn’t stop And guess what? It’s not consistent. There are going to be days when I pick things up alright and then there are going to be days where I can barely function It’s kind of like the weather The atmosphere has to be in certain conditions in order for it to rain, but it changes all the time, right? Sometimes you get a little rain Other times you get a downpour And some days you don’t even get a single drop That’s the best way I know how to explain it
[soft chuckle] So, you know, lay off with the comments Don’t hold people to an unrealistic standard when they tell you that they can’t hear It’s not black and white One of the difficulties of being in The Middle is constantly having to justify your hearing to people who evidently believe that you can only be profoundly deaf or completely hearing And that’s just not realistic at all The world is a little bit more complex than that That is all I have for you today and hopefully you learned a thing or two Remember, sound is an incredible phenomenon and there’s so many things about how the brain works that we don’t fully understand yet So, keep your mind open Until next time – Bye.