We are sitting outside enjoying a late dinner, far removed from the central square in Bruges, Belgium, where the town’s Independence Day celebration has already begun. The setting is beautiful and timeless, but the band at the party is belting out music at an alarming decibel level. We can hear the noise, but can’t tell what song it is, until something clicks in my brain. It is Highway to Hell by AC/DC. As soon as I mentioned this to my husband, he could hear it too. His brain began filling in the blanks that his ears alone could not process.
We found it funny that I (the one with the hearing loss) would be the one to figure out the song, but then we thought about it. I am used to finding patterns in sounds and making sense out of noise. That is what I do everyday as I work to hear.
Why this particular song was played at an Independence Day celebration in Belgium remains a mystery.
This experience reminded me of something that happened a number of years ago with the child of a family friend. She had lost her two front baby teeth prematurely, and the new ones had not grown in yet, so her speech was garbled and difficult to understand, even by her parents. But I didn’t really have an issue. I am used to things sounding patchy, so it was all the same to me. I could often translate what she was saying for the others in the room. She loved that I could understand her.
Her parents asked me how I was able to understand her so well and I was not sure. Was it the vibration pattern than I recognized? The cadence of the speech? Was I reading her body language or maybe her lips? Likely, it was a little bit of all of the above. These are the skills that those of us with hearing loss use everyday to decode the sounds around us. It can certainly come in handy when one of my children is “secretly” mouthing something to the other so I cannot hear. Sorry kids, I lipread!
One place this doesn’t work for me is with accented speech, which I find very hard to understand. It must be the difference in the facial and lip movements.
So much communication information resides outside the actual spoken words. Thank goodness for that or I would never hear a thing!
Readers, do you have a knack for identifying sound patterns in noise?