Friday 24 July 2015

Deaf Girly's head of noise

This time last week I was in the Alps. I was about to start a long morning walk. A walk that took me and FJM past a lake, up a hill, along the side of a river and to a refuge where we sat under a sun umbrella and watched the rain pelt down around us while munching on the most delicious cheese baguettes.

One of the things I love about being in the mountains is how quiet it is, especially in summer when you haven't got the hum of the lifts and the swishing of the skis. It's a kind of quiet that means I can leave my hearing aids at home, because the only thing I need to hear is FJM.

But what amazed me last week was that I heard other stuff, too. Except I didn't. In the calmness and the stillness of the mountains, I was reminded of how good my aural memory is. Or perhaps it's my aural imagination...

You see, we saw marmots. Cute, furry, morbidly obese marmots. FJM heard marmots. I did not, but when he described the noise they made, my brain somehow memorised it and forever more, when I saw that little fat furry backside retreating from the human invaders on its path, I heard the noise FJM had told me it made. You see the fun he could have with this right?!

Back near our ski flat, there was a kitten. I haven't heard a cat meow since I was about  8 years old, and even then, it was the quietest thing I'd ever heard. But when this kitten meowed, I heard it in my head. I lipread the damn cat.

And it was the same for the baby crying in the cafe near us. I lip-read that and my head filled in the blanks giving me sound that my ears can't hear.

The weirdest one though was when I was watching my iPlayer downloads on my iPad on the train down through France. Not bothering with headphones, I had Celebrity Masterchef on mute. In my head, I could hear Greg Wallace and John Torrode. As I read the subtitles, their voices were in my head. And the celebrities that I knew, their voices were in my head, too.

So imagine my surprise when, at the flat on the mountainside, I turned up the volume and held my iPad up to my ear and discovered that Sam Nixon – who was apparently on X Factor – had a northern accent. Something my lipreading had totally missed. In my head, he had a cockney accent not a northern accent. And I had watched six episodes on mute with a totally different voice for him in my head. It was completely bizarre.

But also rather brilliant. Having this fabulous fill-in-the-blanks hearing brain that seems to bypass my ears, helps give me another dimension to hearing that my hearing aids cannot do.

I know deep down that there are some sounds that my ears will never hear. Cats meowing, green men beeping, the noise the tube doors apparently make before they close, phones ringing. And in the last 25 years I have totally come to accept that.

My brain it seems has not. It will keep on giving me cats meowing as long as I see a cat's mouth move. I will keep on hearing a green man beep regardless of whether it does. And you should hear what it thinks the tube door closing warning sounds like...

It's awesome, and probably a lot more tuneful than what the hearing peeps get to listen to.

Happy Friday peeps


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