I was in the shower room drying my hair, but I heard the doorbell ring, so I knew that they were here. What I didn’t hear was the sound of footsteps walking down the hall, and I couldn’t make out the sound of the door opening, or the multiple sets of footsteps that walked right past me down to the living room.
When I emerged, hurrying to make myself presentable before coming down, I could see my newly arrived relatives sitting on the sofas, and their mouths were moving, but I couldn’t hear anything. It was odd, like watching a television on mute. As a got further down the corridor, tiny dribbles of sound reached me, gradually forming themselves into something like a coherent burble when I was about a metre away.
I had realised how bad it was today when I was sitting at my desk in the morning, typing: I couldn’t hear the keys. I was only using a laptop keyboard, never loud, but even so there was usually something more than the feeling beneath my fingers to tell me that the buttons were actually pressing down.
I tried putting headphones in, but with the sound at full volume I could make out the tiniest whisper of music, not enough for me to identify the song.
I could hear mechanical noises, slightly. Well, that wasn’t quite true – I couldn’t hear my phone. I’d realised this at some point during the morning and had turned it to vibrate, because when it rattled through my desk I could not only feel it, I could slightly hear it too. And I heard the beep of my alarm clock on the hour, a piercing but short whistle that agitated my already suffering ears.
But talking to people was like listening to people talk from somewhere underwater.
I knew they were talking. To a point, I could make out what they were saying, but only if they were speaking loudly, and preferably looking in my direction – not only did that mean their voice was going directly towards me, it also meant I could lip-read if I needed to! When multiple people were speaking at once, I found it confusing and stressful, as I couldn’t pick out the individual words from the jumble that I could hear. In the echoey conservatory where we ate lunch, I struggled to listen to conversations more than two places down the table from me.
What was worse was that every noise inside my own head was multiplied. I could hear myself breathing; my heartbeat was pulsing through my ears. And when I spoke, that was much louder than anything else. When I was eating, the sound of chewing was the only thing I could hear, so I couldn’t eat and listen at the same time.
It was a terrifying experience.
I’m lucky enough to have all of my sense intact most of the time. I’ve never been blind or deaf or mute. For the last week or so, I’ve been finding myself mute, from loss of a voice, and deaf, from two ear infections, and it’s been absolutely petrifying.
Where I could normally hear a perfectly ordinary noise, I could hear something garbled and out of tune. Violins, I found, were the worst sound to hear. I could cope with woodwind, but string-based music was horrible to listen to and still is, and as a fiddler myself I hope that’ll sort itself out soon enough! Any sound, whether guitar or piano or flute or whatever, sounds just that little bit off, making it not something I want to listen to.
I’m getting better. I can hear my keyboard keys now, and my phone, and I played the violin for about twenty minutes yesterday (although I did regret it afterwards).
But I’m really going to appreciate listening to music when I can.