What it sounds like to hear like Mel

May 21, 2009 – 9:44 pm


After some exercises that resolved into increasingly dissonant (to me) chords (“you have to get used to it, approved ” said Kevin), caries I mentioned the Other Reason I started learning jazz piano months ago; the type of cognitive dissonance it gives me feels like the same kind of mental pain I get when I put on my hearing aids, and maybe by learning how to deal with one, I can better deal with the other. He was intrigued. Now I’m trying to find better ways to explain the relationship between my piano-playing and my listening, and how my hearing affects that, because I’ve discovered that my explanations only actually work well for engineers (“so imagine a filter that looks like this…”).

I will someday have to make better, custom-fit recordings of this sort of thing, but here are some sound files from Phonak and a bunch of mp3s . I have a severe high-frequency sensorineural loss that’s noticeably worse than the “moderate” loss displayed by Phonak (as far as I can tell by eyeballing the audiogram), and I can’t hear the 2000Hz sample (and higher) with my laptop speakers cranked all the way up (…not saying much, I know), and beyond that I’m not sure how to give others a good gauge for this, because I’m locked inside my own head, my own cochlea.

Incidentally, when I listen to the samples from both sites, I don’t notice any difference in sound quality – only volume. I hear all the same noises, as far as I can tell. They’re just softer. So I’m curious to hear what sounds disappear, reappear, transform, pop out, or otherwise sound different to you folks with normal hearing. I’ll also note that I’m listening to these on laptop speakers, not exactly known for their range and quality of audio reproduction.

Yeah, I’m spiral-learning on this. A lot. Forgive my repetition; these are as much for my present self to make sense of the world as they are for my future self to look back on what I used to wonder.

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  1. 2 Responses to “What it sounds like to hear like Mel”

  2. It’s a holiday, so I’m giving myself an excuse to avoid homework a little longer, by helping Mel with her random wonderings.


    As I move from the “moderate” to the “normal,” the speech sounds more clearly articulated, as it the speaker were a)opening her mouth, b) moving twenty feet closer, or c) stepping out from behind a wall. With “moderate,” I understand <20% of the words. With “mild,” I can understand everything, it just sounds a little muted. Like talking in a room with padded walls.

    The announcement in station did just seem to get louder, though it also got a little sharper. It took me until listening to the “normal” to be sure it was in German.

    I’m better at understanding the ones with background noise, though I couldn’t say why. With “normal” hearing, the sounds actually kind of hurt. What changes in those is just the variety of pitches in the background noise.


    On the mountain, their are definite differences. The “moderate” sounds like a wooden wind chime–a little bit dull, and a few definite pitches. By “normal,” there are more pitches to that but also a different set of sharply metallic (cowbell?) clangs, and a few different birds chirping.

    The birds–”moderate” doesn’t hear anything of the birds. “Mild” hears a little bit of chirping, “normal” hears a lot more, plus wings flapping.

    It reminds me of a passage in Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. (Excerpt) The girl, a maid in Vermeer’s household, is talking with him about distinguishing colors and the difference between the white of an onion and of a turnip.

    Continuing that metaphor: I have brown eyes. Any form I’ve filled out will confirm this. Even Matt, who has looked at them a lot and from up close will say that my eyes are brown. Except that they’re not, actually. There’s an undefinable dark ring around the outside, and most of the iris is olive green, with this bright orange sunburst in the middle, and even those have little stripes and freckles of darker hues. The recordings with hearing loss are like taking all of the subtlety out of the colors of my eyes, and just calling them brown.

    By Bonnie on May 25, 2009

  3. Mel,

    All perfectly normal with regards to how you are hearing things at this point. Let me know if you have any questions on Hearing loss and I’ll do my best to answer them. Just go to my link and click on my name to email me.
    Have been HOH since around age 2. There are ways to compensate for the loss, you just have to figure them out based on your own needs. Frustrating! At age 50, I’m still learning new ways to ‘hear’! (ha)

    By Tami on May 30, 2009

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