This month, I began a test on my own hearing.
Digression: I love music. I love being in the moment of music. This causes me to want to listen to it as if I’m right there amidst the instruments and singers. For years, my father has yelled at me about losing my hearing due to this impulse. Embarrassing as it is for a child to admit, parents are very often right.
I have thought about this fact for a while now–that hearing is a temporary thing. It does not necessarily stay around just because you want it to. These days we aim at its destruction. Therefore, with this knowledge in hand (and the very uncomfortable fact that, although my hearing is still very good, it isn’t the superb bat-like radar ears I used to have), and prompted by a recent ABC study on noticeable hearing loss amongst teenagers (up 30% from 20 years ago, I believe was one statistic–but don’t quote me on the span of time), I have undertaken to relearn how to hear.
Of course, there is no undoing the damage already done. Once those tiny hairs are damaged, they’re damaged. The brain picks up on the loudest sounds it can sense, through hearing, and therefore the louder one’s music is, the louder the sounds the brain receives. For many people like myself, music stimulates the brain in a variety of ways, making it as potent as an addiction. Music lovers generally MUST have music. I am no exception to this rule. It stimulates, works up, calms, stabilizes. I love it. However, I will admit that dad was right. (This is a frustrating admission.) It disturbs me that my hearing is not what I want it to be, nor ever will be again. I, like any responsible adult, shoulder the entirety of the blame.
Coupled with these observations, mini research projects, and studies, is a sense of horror. Mass marketing of MP3 players, iPods, etc. has turned us into walking zombies. Not only does it put one at risk of getting hit by a car (or becoming the victim of some other preventable accident), these amazing little gadgets (and admittedly, I own one or two) deafen and are deafening our population at an alarming rate.
While I cannot make any choices for anyone regarding this, there are ways of controlling this rising problem. Awareness is always key. Being well-read is a great way to stay on top of trendy fads that may make you, your child, or whomever look cool now, but I guarantee you no one wants to deal with the uncool deaf dude or dudette 30 years from now. (S/he yells too much may be the tip of the iceberg.) As I’ve said, hearing is not a permanent thing. It, like the rest of the body, requires vigilance for healthy maintenance. iPods were originally designed so the wearer could listen to one or a few songs at a time. I believe the warning label mentions this. Hours of listening to anything, regardless of what form it takes, damages hearing.
What do these ramblings have to do with my own experiment? They are the things that motivate me to try to do better. To be more responsible for a body that slowly looses functionality the older it gets. I’d like to hear people sing my grandchildren “Happy Birthday”, be able to talk and hear my kids’ voices without the aid of prostheses, or just plain avoid getting run over by the chick talking on her cell and applying mascara simultaneously. I’d like to keep on hearing birds and insects and the rain pattering on tree leaves. I’d like not to lose a part of myself.
So, dad, I admit it. You were right. I finally have listened.
(These are personal reflections not necessarily arranged in any order or meant to convince anyone to do anything. Data from any statistics may be skewed as I was trying to read them off a TV too far away with badly-written text for the deaf–ironic, is it not? My research is for basic understanding of hearing loss and fairly limited. That said, I really do miss my whole range of hearing. Teaching a brain how to pick up on music, a love in my life, may never fully work. I just might not hear it all. It is something to consider. With all of this said, I do love the title of this post.)