Saturday, September 10, 2005

Wall of Noise

Hey. Still here in this new sound environment, trying to make sense of it. It's big and strong and needs a name -- Gleep World? Tron World? The cyborgasm? -- I'm open to suggestions.

Things are loud -- keyboards, keys hitting a table, a truck horn on Broadway. Everything's pretty much at rock concert volume, except voices. I'm having trouble hearing voices and it's hard to clarify other sounds. I'm having trouble because the sounds I'm hearing actually aren't that loud, they're just new. I've never heard them before. The newness of them overloads my unaccustomed, unprepared brain cells. It's astonishing, all this new sound. You too would spend five minutes staring at the subway gate, listening to it ding, waving at frightened latino mothers, if it had never made such sound before. My brain is starting to make new neuron connections with the auditory nerve, connections which better understand the implant generated sound. This will take time -- weeks, months, maybe even years.

But every day, every hour, there are new hearing firsts: first time I heard the microwave beep from another room. First time I heard the toilet flush from down the hall. First time I heard someone drop a pen from across the room. First time I walked down a NYC street and clearly heard a woman walking the other way say into her cellphone, "Well, I'm sorry. But I still really think that color doesn't agree with you." First time, Maria Sharpova and I went to dinner together and compared forehand grips by candlelight. It's amazing stuff. It's like a child's first words. Good times.

On another note: yesterday I went to visit the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, where I worked counseling children last year. More then seventy percent of Lex's students come from immigrant families and ninety percent live at or below the poverty line. Many of these kids technically have more hearing than Sam and I do, but deafness is a disease of class as much as decibels and their families never had the time or resources to teach them oral language. They rely on sign. And now the rapid improvement and spread of implants is shrinking their community smaller and smaller, pushing it further to the margins. (I highly reccommend the movie "Sound and Fury" about this situation.)

It felt strange to be at Lex with this chip in my skull blasting noise 12-15 hours a day. Last year when I was there, I was losing my hearing and learning in new ways to be deaf. Now, all of a sudden, I'm learning a new way to be hearing. Sam and I are going to have to form a new community: the sortas. Sorta deaf, sorta hearing, sorta strange.

"Did you hear what I said?"
"Did you like the movie? Are the dishes clean? What do you want with your burger?"

I realized at Lexington that one thing I'd like this blog to express is just what a gift sound is. We don't usually wake up and think, cool my feet just made a clunk noise when they hit the floor and by the same token, we don't usually take time to appreciate that hey I have feet -- that's amazing! We take feet and noise for granted and then fill our minds with reasons why life isn't adequate or fair. Lord knows, I'm guilty of doing this. (Reason number 340 life ain't fair in my book -- I can't dunk. Number 3,458 -- the guy next to me in the library keeps picking his nose and wiping it on the desk). But I hope these updates on learning to hear all over again inspire you to take a few seconds to marvel at your own ability to hear and to marvel at all the experiences sound brings.

In Times Square today, a man asked me if I'd made the choice to accept Jesus into my life as He was the way.

"No," I said. "He owes me money."
"Then who are you voting for?" the man said.
"Excuse me?"
"I said, 'Seigel is the best choice for advocate.' Vote on Tuesday."
"Ah, yes. Yes you did," I said. "Thank you for that."


Blogger UncaJonny said...

a) The WHIRRRRld
b)I don't usually wake up with my feet hitting the floor
c)thanks loads for telling me about the nose picker

5:29 AM  
Blogger Bankable Poetry said...

Uncle Josh,
Jaya wants to know if all this new hearing is physically exhausting. When we return to the city from Ithaca, we find subway sounds to be massive energy depleters. Is this the case for you?
La famille Burney

6:02 AM  
Blogger jradin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:23 PM  
Blogger jradin said...

hey cuz--
you sound like you're having fun, or at least you read that way. i like hearing about the sound revelations.

6:25 PM  

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