Monday, March 14, 2011

Q & A #17

Gillian from A Daft Scots Lass asked me this question in my Q & A #16 post - "Were you born deaf?"

No, I was not born deaf. I was a normal healthy boy with a massive shock of blonde hair on the head.

When I was 13 months old, I contracted a case of spinal meningitis and that put me in a coma for about two weeks. During that time, the high fevers destroyed some of the hair in the inner ears which made me deaf.

When I finally woke up, my mother was the first to notice that I wasn't responding to audio stimuli and the tests confirmed her suspicion. My deafness was measured at around 96 decibels. To give you an idea how loud something has to be for me to hear it, a lawnmower is around 110 decibels.

Funny thing is, I do not hear the lawnmowers...even when I operate one. My theory is my body picks up the vibrations first, negating the need for my ears to "ring" with the noises. The only effective way for my ears to pick anything up is if you do a high pitch scream into my ear or create a loud noise close to my ear - thus eliminating my body as the middleman.

Strange, huh? What's even stranger is how my ears work differently. My right ear picks up "sharp" noises like knocking or a barking dog while my left ear picks up "soft" noises like a ringing phone or a meowing cat. That's with the hearing aids...and no, I don't use the hearing aids anymore.

Why? For a long while, I kept getting confusing mix of sounds on my hearing aids...remember how my ears work independently in the last paragraph? That wasn't discovered until I was in my mid-20's. I had given up on the hearing aids when I was 12. I tried the hearing aids again with this new discovery and a better understanding of how my ears work...and that was still a failure, so I quit for good.

I think it has something to do with the atrophy factor in the part of my brain that processes sound. Just like the legs of a person who became paralyzed - they atrophy after a long period of no activity. Because of that, I am no longer a viable candidate for cochlear implants - I wouldn't be able to process sounds effectively at all. I do not want to be a candidate anyway - I love sports too much and I wouldn't be allowed to play softball or racquetball or football or anything with physical contact.


A Daft Scots Lass said...

Thanx for answering my question in great detail. :-)

DCHY said...

ADSL - your question was really well-timed...all of that just flowed out of me. Thanks for asking. :)

nitebyrd said...

It's so fascinating how the brain/body will work to overcome what could be debilitating, especially in children. I wonder if someone who became deaf at an older age would've adapted so well?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing something so personal. :-)

DCHY said...

Nitebyrd - I have seen some late-deafened (as they are called) adults adapt to that without any difficulty. I. King Jordan is a great example. He lost his hearing in a motorcycle accident and went on to become Gallaudet University's first deaf President.

Chloe - you are welcome. :)