Tuesday, September 21, 2004

It's not earplugs; it's hearing loss.

For my Audiology class, I had to participate in an empathic study over the weekend. I had to wear -29 dB earplugs for a full day, if I could stand it, to try and see what it was like to have a conductive hearing loss. (A conductive hearing loss occurs when your ear canal is blocked, while a sensorineural hearing loss is when your inner ear and / or auditory nerve has been damaged. I'm studying AND blogging!)

I chose Saturday for my study, as I was going out shopping with the family, and figured I'd get into all sorts of situations where this would be problematic. I didn't wear the earplugs all day, because I'm a wimp and they were bothering my ears; I wouldn't say they hurt, but they were a serious discomfort. I learned a lot loss with those things in, though.

My hair is long enough to cover my ears, so a lot of people -- not my family, although my father thought it'd be amusing not to tell my mother that I had earplugs -- couldn't see the earplugs. Sometimes, people adjusted their communication styles to help me out; my mother began to use entirely too many hand gestures in order to facilitate her speech, and a number of sales associates began to speak louder and slower. A few people, though, treated me really coldly when I didn't respond to their small talk. These people didn't think I was hearing impaired: they thought I was rude. This is a handicap that had never occured to me before. Speech is such a universal social tool, and those people who have damage have a hard time keeping up with the rest of us.

The other thing I noticed, though, was far more amusing. Because the earplugs completely occluded my ear, all the sound that'd normally pass through my ear canal and out into space were bounced back to my eardrum, amplifying all the sounds I made with my mouth. It's like putting your fingers in your ears; your own speech gets louder because the sound can't escape. While it was manageable when I was talking, eating was a different matter. Imagine sitting next to someone who was eating with his mouth open. Then imagine him shrinking down, crawling into your ear, and leaning up against your eardrum. When I was eating, I couldn't hear anything except for my own chewing and swallowing. It made conversation very difficult:

Peach: So, I was [MUNCH, MUNCH, SWALLOW, GULP] and then [SLURP, MUNCH GULP] maybe we [MUNCH, GULP]. What do you think?
Me: Uh . . . sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This comment has absolutely no bearing on your post, which may seem like a rather redundant concept, but hear me out (if you can 'hear me out' with those earplugs in - I am funny and topical).

I come here in the spirit of friendship to offer my very own personal thank you to you, Dr Teeth, for linking to Mutant Reviewers From Hell on your blog. I think it's safe to say that I, and the rest of the staff at MRFH, love your band, film, and TV appearances, and all hope that you can grow legs (or at least allow your legs to be seen on TV) as soon as possible. It's the very least you deserve for kindly linking to our site.

One hundred thousand thanks.

- Mutant Rich