It seemed like a pretty innocent request at the time – it was asked by someone I have worked with for almost 10 years, someone I trust and feel close to in the sense that we have worked together intimately in a demanding and stressful environment.
Do you have hearing loss?
I immediately thought WTF! and my heart sank – I looked down and said Why do you ask? She answered Because everyone (I’m paraphrasing here) has noticed but they’re afraid to say anything to you about it…
I have known I’ve suffered some hearing damage for a long time, but it’s an insidious thing. Here’s why: Because our brains are capable of “filling in the holes” of our perceptions of the world we live in, it will quite literally do just that. Indeed, if you have ever studied how our brains interpret what our eyes “see,” you will understand what I mean. Our minds construct a visual representation of our world that is only pertinent to each of us – neurological perception is a highly individualized and variable thing. This is true for all of our senses.
Hearing is no different. Imagine you have spent your whole life listening intently to sound because you are a musician – within a relatively short amount of time (say, 10 years or less), you will have built up a very detailed database of “sound perception,” that is, your brain will have built a catalog of how things should optimally sound based on your preferences.
Now imagine that slowly, over decades perhaps, you begin to lose your hearing acuity. Your brain will happily slowly “fill in the gaps” to compensate for any deficiencies, making it seem as though nothing is wrong. But eventually, reality will bring the whole illusion crashing down.
In my case, it was this simple question.
So yeah, I’m a bit bewildered and struggling with what to do next. It’s a real mindfuck.