We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and our days have gotten quieter. There are not as many cars on the road and not as many people outside – it’s as if the volume of the world has been turned down.
For those of us with hearing loss, this may come as a relief, because a big issue that we face is something called hearing fatigue – being tired after prolonged exposure to sound.
I’m not really feeling that relief. In fact, at the end of my day, my brain feels so loud. Let’s backtrack for a second.
On days where my routine is predictable, I tend to expect certain sounds at certain times. For example, I expect my parents to wish me good morning when I head downstairs at the beginning of each day, I expect my co-worker to maybe call my name from the desk next to me at work or I expect my dog to bark when I come home.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, when I take off my cochlear, I don’t stop hearing. Sounds disappear, but I still hear them in my head. This sounds a bit crazy, but let me explain myself for a second.
For example, my mom would come in when I don’t have my cochlear on and start speaking to me. Logically, I’m not supposed to hear her voice, but my brain will make the sounds for me and I will hear her voice in my head as if my cochlear was on.
It’s almost as if everything else in the world is silent, except for her voice…which only I can hear, because it’s my brain producing that sound.
This happens a lot when I watch a Netflix show in bed without my cochlear on. If it’s a show where I am familiar with how the characters talk, then I can easily just sub their voices in my head.
If it’s a show where I’ve never heard the characters speak, then I just imagine what they sound like, and substitute that in my head (although, I set myself up for disappointment when I put my cochlear on and realize how far off base I was).
I find that nowadays my brain, to compensate for the fact that I’m not hearing as much as I usually do, is louder than ever. Even when I’m wearing my cochlear during the day, my brain is producing sounds that I would typically expect elsewhere.
This past Thursday, I kept thinking my colleague was calling my name. She’s working from home. I’m working from home. No one is calling my name. Lately, I find that the quieter my day is, the louder my brain gets.
I think if you wear a cochlear implant or a hearing aid, you just become so accustomed to hearing sounds that, when the time comes to take your hearing device off, your brain eases the transition from noise to absolute silence by creating sounds that only you can hear – sounds that imitate what you hear when you have your hearing aid or cochlear on.