Ow, my Ears!

I have partial hearing loss in both ears. Not from listening to loud music, which has become the usual cause for people my age (between 15-50). No, I was working on an airplane, actually inside an airplane. We were bucking rivets, which requires one person on the outside with the pneumatic gun, sort of a very precise air-powered hammer, and one inside with the heavy metal bar. The punch in the gun hits the end of the rivet. The bar holds the rivet in place, and the rivet spreads out, filling the hole and pulling two (or three) pieces of metal together, a bit like brads on your jeans pockets. Yours truly, being (back then) small, limber, and foolish, happily squirmed her way inside the antique Navy airplane and bucked rivets for half an hour or so. Without any form of hearing protection. I knew I might have problems when I got out of the plane for dinner and the boss was moving his mouth but making no sound. Took an hour for my ears to return to normal. Now, I’m very sensitive to high pitches and any background noise washes out conversation. And I always use ear protection.

Last month, I tuned in the Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is one of the Christmas shows I look forward to, because, well, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the organ. I’m a choir buff, what can I say? So the program started well, and then the Muppets (TM) arrived. I kinda like the Muppets because of growing up with Big Bird and friends. And then Elmo and the young girl character started talking and I had to hit the mute button.

Their voices hurt. I’m not fond of characters that speak in third person without good reason (See the Rogue Squadron novels for a good reason), and the Elmo toy irked me when it first came out. But those high-pitched voices caused almost physical pain. I could not listen to them. I’ve never experienced anything like that before from the TV, and the first time it happened, I thought well, maybe it’s just the TV being on speaker and the tweeters were acting up, so I turned off the speakers. Nope. The voices hurt. The high pitches and something else, an overtone perhaps, cut into my ears and made me grit my teeth. So I watched with one finger over the remote.

I was very disappointed. In part because I’m a tad bit old for the Muppets and I was hoping for an hour of great music. What music there was sounded excellent. But the voices grated and cut, ruining the scenes those two happened to be in. Also, the Muppets on the screen struck me as being dumbed down. Not Big Bird or Grover as much as Elmo and the pigtailed girl. I’d heard other people complaining that the show wasn’t what they remembered, but I’d chalked it up to age. No, even Cookie Monster made more sense than Elmo, and Cookie Monster too has become health conscious rather than comic.

Happily for me, the BYU channel also had reruns of previous years’ concerts, so I was not totally without benefit of music. And Christmas at Belmont featured Kathy Mattea and some really great choral music, so the evening ended on an up note, if you’ll pardon the phrase.

But if any of my readers have dogs that howl when Elmo talks, they have my sympathy.

8 thoughts on “Ow, my Ears!

  1. Once upon a time Pa showed me (and $SISTER, I think) how to make a crude ‘carbide cannon’ from a small empty can. Smaller than a quart. Punch hole in bottom (nail), put in a bit of calcium carbide, spit (I did say crude), put lid in place, aim downrange (that is, clear area, free of people, animals, objects of value, etc.) and put a lit match to the hole and.. *bang* and the lid goes flying. Harmless fun, if you are sensible about downrange.. and sizing of the combustion chamber. Well, one evening I had acquired a quart sized empty paint can. Not wanting to be too close (but not rigging a remote electric ignition) I used a birthday candle on the end of a brazing rod for ignition. This was around 6 PM. The result was *LOUD* (the next day a neighbor a ways away who heard it through the woods asked about our muzzle loader.) I spent the evening watching Harold Lloyd movies on PBS, since well, silent pictures. Around midnight i think I could about normally again. I did NOT repeat that incident. My hearing might be a bit fuzzy, but i still surprise some folks by what I do hear. I used to walk right up to a monitor, out of a roomful, that had been left on. “How did you know that one was on?” “It was screaming.” “?”

  2. My mother was blessed (or cursed) with very good hearing in the upper ranges. She said she could hear bats.*

    While I have never actually heard a bat echolocating dinner, I am sensitive to high pitch sounds. What is funny is that the sensitivity has not diminished as the acuity has. My right ear has lost some high and low range, but high pitches songs still hurt. (makes the tinnitus real fun when it flares up)

    *I suspect what she was hearing was the low “chatter” that bats do. True echolocation is too high for any human to hear, but many bats chatter (squeaks and chirps) in a frequency that we can hear – if we have real good hearing. I can only hear that if I am close to the bat. Mom could hear it while they were in flight. -smile-

  3. Even though I have been fairly conscientious about hearing protection my whole life, I have some hearing loss. I can still hear quiet things, and things far away, but know background noise tends to drown everything into an unidentifiable soup of noises. When I go by my parents house, my mom has an air filter in the living room (over by the wood stove) and she gets irritated at my dad (who has real hearing loss, and doesn’t wear his hearing aids) or I turning it off. She swears it is so quiet you don’t notice it, and it keeps the dust down. But neither I nor my dad can understand anybody to sit and have a conversation, with it running. She doesn’t have a problem, and I’m not sure she really believes us when we say we do.

    Ditto with exhaust fans over cookstoves. If you’ve got one of those running, don’t even bother to try to talk to me, because I won’t understand a word you are saying.

    • The stove fan drowns out everything (except the smoke detector, oddly enough.) The blowers at the school are quiet enough that they don’t bother me. When the big multi-room AC unit just outside the classroom window beside my desk kicks in, however . . .

  4. I have tinnitus and hyperacusis. Comes from firing firearms without ear protection, working in computer rooms without ear protection, and working in very noisy electronic environments without ear protection. Higher pitches are almost totally masked, and ANY sound above a dull whisper can become painful. Thus, no television, no radio, no music, and the sound is muted on my computer. Which really causes me to have problems on the Internet, now that EVERYONE wants to post videos instead of words. My wife is going deaf, which doesn’t help matters. At least she listens to her books on tape and television with earphones. . .

    • I just got back from seeing Star Wars (Yes, I’m the last person in North America to see it). The previews hurt my ears. I still have dulled hearing and everything sounds flat. I knew I should have taken earplugs, but I didn’t remember where I’d left them (bottom pocket of the shooting bag, of course. Under my big muffs.)

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