I am, reluctantly learning what auditory deficits can mean in terms of social interaction and lack of social interaction.
As I sit writing this, I am bombarded by fan noises from the computer and cooling pad. The heat pump and air handler are making their presence known. Gloria is talking to a friend in FL by phone, and the television is on at low volume. All of these sounds can be removed from my environment. There is an ever-present buzzing whine punctuated by chirps and whistles that can be removed because it became part of my physiologic construction as my ability to hear at important frequencies was removed by proximity to loud weaponry.
This is what I wrote last night, 18 February 2012. I hope it conveys my concern.
“Tonight we are at a dance. The music is provided by an acoustic band but delivered via house PA. In the space around me there are multiple conversations taking place with people speaking loudly to overcome the band sounds. There are tired, crying children. There is traffic noise. There are plant noises from air conditioning. Beneath all this, there is the high buzzing that is always present. Finally, people are asking me questions. I can’t hear them clearly enough to understand the questions. It is horribly frustrating, to the point where I’d rather not be here at all. I hate looking like I don’t understand the language. The dance organizer just asked me if I heard him thank me for working the table. I didn’t. There’s no way I expect to overcome the background and tinnitus. This is really uncomfortable. I’d like to respond in kind to common courtesies but I don’t get the audio clues I need to behave in a civilized manner.
“Wednesday night we dined out in a good restaurant, Bonefish Grill. The physical plant noises were noticeable and the overhead speakers were spraying some musical background, the surrounding diners were engaged in conversations, the service staff were answering questions and taking orders. If the waiter was at all turned away from my line of sight, it was impossible to understand what he was telling me or asking me. I’ve gotten to the point where I take many of my clues from Gloria; which places an unfair burden on her.
“Even outdoors at our home presents difficulties. The sound of running water can mask other sound. I hear buzzes and chirps internally generated. But I don’t hear the buzzes, chirps cheeps, and other bird, insect and animal noises that are so much a part of the forest around us. “
There are the noises that are part of life in an industrialized nation, traffic, car stereos, screaming kids in grocery stores; I retain my ability to hear those. There’s no selective nature to tinnitus.