The sound of music upon my injured ears
So I’m sitting here at home on another summers evening. Keeping busy as usual. Not thinking of what I might have been doing had my life not fallen to pieces from this stroke of difficulty that fell upon me. Not thinking about Glastonbury or all the festivals that I might have danced at had my body not been so drastically injured by this passing invisible unknown thing that, randomly, deliberately or cruelly chose me. I’m not thinking about how long this might go on for or how I will live a life I want to live without my hearing or inner ear balance or with this awful metal on metal screeching sound in my head.
I decided today that since my hearing has fluctuated, I should not waste any opportunities to listen to music (just in case there is any further decline in future).
If you had asked me before what pastime gave me the most pleasure I would have said music. I was born singing and as soon as I was old enough was playing with records and tapes, recording sounds over and over each other to create music. I learnt flute at school, taught myself guitar as a young teen and then ditched them both for turntables once the dance music scene took me over. I’ve always loved singing but my voice got pretty ruined by 20 years of smoking. I’d always promised myself that if I could quit smoking I’d treat myself to singing lessons.By the time I quit I felt I was too old to start from scratch.
It’s always been one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t do anything with my love of music. About 2 years ago I treated myself to the most beautiful and sweet sounding Breedlove guitar. I fell in love with this particular guitar as soon as I heard it. I yearned for it for a whole summer and went to visit it in Denmark Street so many times that eventually the shop keeper took mercy on me and let me have it with a discount. Unfortunately years later it’s been sitting untouched on its stand. Life got busy with work, boyfriends and other necessities and I’ve been waiting for a quiet time to devote to it.
I’m certainly no songbird, and never really honed skills in any instruments…but nevertheless, music and singing is a pleasure to me without comparison. And so as my hearing deteriorated over the past 4 months, and sounds have became increasingly distorted, I’ve become scared of listening to music and it sounding really awful as then I’d have to face the loss of something so deeply precious to me.
And so I decided tonight for the first time in 4 months, to be brave, and try to listen to some music.
Although the quality is lost, I can hear music when it’s streamed straight into my hearing aids. I cried a lot – because I feel both blessed to be able to hear music at all, but also because I’m so sad that the quality is so awful. Because I am profoundly deaf in the high frequencies, music is distorted and compressed. I’ve lost the quality, the roundness, the smoothness. What I hear is probably a bit like the sound that comes out of speakers you’d buy in the £1 shop – crackly, edgy, tinny. … But I can still hear enough to enjoy the song if it’s straight into my aids.
But I don’t see how I’ll ever enjoy listening with other people as the music would have to be really loud for me to hear it through speakers. I worry it will sound like the TV – fuzzy, undefined, noise that I cant quite make out. Every situation where there is music playing in the background is going to be uncomfortable for me as I will be excluded from the mutual enjoyment of it and instead have to tolerate its distortion. I didn’t try playing music through my speakers tonight as I have no sense of volume and don’t want to wake the street. I’ll try tomorrow with a box of tissues and update here.
I know there is a lot worse that could have happened. There are far more people that have more significant things to be sad about. But to me, who’s life is now monk-like, unable to go out and be with people because I either hear too much or not enough, my loss of hearing and my loss of music is my sadness tonight. Tonight I play the blues for all that has been lost these past few months – for my partner in crime who left without even so much as a goodbye, for my desirability, freedom, ability to walk, drive, run, dance, hear, listen, respond, communicate, mix and merge in the world.
I’ve done so so well. People I meet compliment me on how well look and how positive and chirpy I am despite whats happened. I really feel I’ve coped amazingly. Tonight I allow myself a little crumble. There is only so long I can be in denial of how much I have lost. My life as I knew it has been taken from me and I’ve no choice but to start again…learning how to live with my poor injured ears in a world.
Here’s a song for us. Ray Lamontagne soothes my soul and I hope he soothes yours to.
I’d really love to hear from others with sudden severe hearing loss. There must be ways of managing to still enjoy music? So far there haven’t been many deafened people respond to my blog and I certainly haven’t come across any people who have experienced it as quickly as me in both ears. Anyone else out there been/going through this experience?
June 27, 2015 @ 5:03 am
I have sudden single sided severe loss in my left ear. Right ear is still 100%. I just wanted to drop a note and say you’re not alone… at least I am half there.
I read something on WordPress a week or two ago about how a music producer(?) uses his iPhone and some mixing apps to get better sound quality directly through a good quality headset rather than any other system through hearing aids (FM, Bluetooth, etc). I don’t know if that idea is at all helpful, but it’s out there as a viable solution for some folks.
In any case, there’s a community here, even if it doesn’t leave comments much. 🙂
June 27, 2015 @ 11:52 pm
Aw Thanks Michael. Yes in-the-ear headphones would probably be less distorted. As long as my hearing doesn’t drop again then they would work… But still doesn’t work for parties etc. I know some people with sound systems and I’ve asked them if they can help me find a technical solution to make it possible for me to enjoy with others.
Thanks for your message Michael I appreciate that. Glad you have preserved One good ear!
August 17, 2015 @ 7:34 pm
Thank you for reaching out to others. I’m not deaf (or maybe I’m selectively deaf if you ask my wife!), but do have similar balance (bilateral vestibulopahy) and vision problems (oscillopsia + blind in one eye from birth) as a result of what I believe I hindsight to be an infection with bacterial meningitis, although it was only ever diagnosed as a common ear infection. Also, like you I think I was meant to be musically inclined, but never pursued it early enough in life (now 43) to become proficient at anything. I have, however, recently found a way to use other gifts for music by building instruments for others who can actually play them well.
I’ve always worked with my hands and even had a semi-successful career as a sculptor, but I always hated the “art-world”, wanting some sense of function in what I built. So now I am a luthier part-time building banjos and ukuleles and it gives me joy to see what others can do with them. I only say this to bring up the idea of focusing on what you CAN do in pursuing your passion of music, although I must also honestly say that if I could no longer hear music, I would also grieve. And it does sound like you are going through a true grief cycle here, which is a very normal thing under your circumstances. The bright side is that grief does come to an end, or at least gradually diminishes, and I think you are doing the right things to accommodate that. Not least among those things is your praying you have mentioned. In my case God has led me through many hard times in the last 3 years since my infection, but my reliance on Him has gotten me through it so that I can not only manage my symptoms better, but also see that He is behind the whole thing working out a plan that I never could have come up with myself. The Bible says that whatever we give up for Him in this life, we will be blessed with many times over in the next. It also says that He chastises those He loves. This tells me that when I am going through these difficult times, it is because He knows I can make it and will be better off for it, especially in the next life where He will have a use for someone with that character. I can only imagine the music that will be played at that time!
I really do wish you the best in your struggle with this and send prayers up for you for physical healing and spiritual strength.
Anna Jean Mallinson
September 4, 2016 @ 5:03 am
For some reason I missed this post earlier. As Candice knows, i have vestibular toxicity in both ears. since 1988, My hearing was mysteriously damaged in 1998 so that I could still hear voices with hearing aids but music sounded harsh, discordant, tinny. I sold my piano and gave away my collection of Classical CDs. My grief at having music, a constant mainstay, vanish from my life, is still sharp and I sometimes think if i had a choice between regaining balance and regaining listening to music I would choose the latter. Then a year or so ago my hearing deteriorated further so that with powerful hearing aids in both ears. I can hear voices one on one or even two, speaking slowly and clearly but they sound distant and thin. In public places with poor acoustics I can make out nothing. I feel glad that I can understand single voices. Within the last three years i have also lost sight in one eye. I see that Jeff has had vision in only eye from birth. I note these things because they are conditions that I in some sense share with you. I am moved and encouraged by what you say, Jeff and Candice, by your blog about things to remember when ill. Somehow the loss of one eye hit me very hard because it interfered with my adjustment to oscillopsia. i also had to give up my artistic practice of making large hooked rugs. I am happy to report that I am now drawing in my Samsung tablet. somehow I can focus on that smaller area of design. A door closes; another opens if you are lucky enough to find it. I’m going to read your other blogs to–morrow.
January 9, 2019 @ 5:45 am
This reminds me to be grateful for the significant hearing that I do retain. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience.