Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Auditory Memory and Other Ramblings

Auditory therapy, session two. Take-away points: right now it's all about building confidence and auditory memory. (Nothing new. That mental sound dictionary is going to be years in the making.) And it's about making myself stretch, too, defining a set that's neither too open nor too closed. I have to flex my listening muscles, so to speak, and make myself work hard without becoming frustrated or feeling like the answer is out of reach. It's a tricky balance. So how do I push those boundaries? This week we tried several things. Listening and selecting sentences at different volumes and distances, defining a category and then having me discern open-ended statements about it, listening to sets of words and determining which one did not belong. That brain of mine is still reluctant to listen, to put its faith in something previously so unknown, but the more I push it the more it cooperates.

Also, I need to put aside my fear of incomprehension. It's a bit ironic that lack of communication is probably my biggest fear, yet it's something with which I have a tremendous amount of experience. Over the years I've come up with a number of coping mechanisms for situations when I'm just not getting it. My brain has gotten good at glossing things over, at filling in the blanks when it can and trying to cope when it can't. Up to this point, that puzzle-solving process has mainly applied to lipreading, but now it applies to listening too. While deciphering the speech sounds I hear, I need to make myself release some of my inner tension. I'm going into overdrive, piecing together sounds in an attempt to extract a statement that makes sense, and worrying when none of it fits - but, when things do click, it often happens suddenly. No analysis involved: I know what I'm hearing! That's the goal, moving forward - to ask myself, am I listening with my ears or with my brain? That analytical mind of mine has always been a huge asset, but maybe one day it'll be a bit less necessary, or a bit less overburdened, as more of the pieces fall into place. What a great thought.

And, finally - this may be a bit redundant, but I keep feeling stunned at the texture of the world with sound in it. Seven months has not distilled my private sense of wonder. There's a bird building a nest outside my window, and I hear it right now as I type. I've been noticing new types of bird calls around campus, too, and other sounds keep shadowing me, feeling more and more like good friends. The whistling of the wind, the squeal of my bike tires, overlapping machinery, people's voices carrying over from the most improbable places. Hard work aside, all of this is so, so amazing.

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