One of the most common comments or questions I get is whether or not my hearing is more “in tune” than those who can see. While science does indicate that the brain does compensate for lack of sight, I personally believe I hear as well as I do because I am more used to using my ears to hear the world around me.
The one main downside to this, as opposed to being able to see, is that there are only a handful of things that can obstruct one’s vision, but many many things that can change what one hears and how one relates to the world.
Alberta (particularly southern Alberta) experienced snow in September last week. Thankfully, the snow didn’t stick here, so I was in good shape to travel. But after a big dump of snow like that, it makes travel much more challenging (ever hear of the saying “blind man’s fog”?) It is very easy to get yourself turned around when there’s 3 inches of snow on the ground, unshoveled, and snow keeps flying; thankfully my guide dog is an old pro at navigating through such a quiet, occasionally slushy mess. My friend Meagan wrote a very descriptive blog post that describes the challenges of navigating the snow; I will not belabor it.
I grew up near Vancouver, affectionately dubbed the “wet coast”, so you’d think I would be completely familiar with changing my spacial relation when we get a big rainfall or a bunch of puddles on the roads. Nope! More than once I have waited more than one light-change cycle because cars driving through puddles sound like they might be in the turning lanes. This isn’t a problem once that rain as stopped, but I don’t like the rain, refuse to carry an umbrella, and have a dog that hates to get rained on so much that I bought her a rain poncho; if it’s raining hard outside at the immediate moment, I am unable to multitask or think much about anything beyond putting one foot in front of the other and hope I don’t get splashed by vehicles speeding through the puddles.
Thankfully for me, this is quite rare, but I am currently recovering from a pretty intense head cold. Just before the worst of it hit, I came across a situation that I didn’t expect. My ears were slightly plugged, and my nose was stuffed up beyond belief. I took Jenny for a walk around the block, and at one point she slowed down. Usually when she does this it means she’s found something yummy on the ground that she’s debating about picking up. I waved her forward, and she took a right-hand turn nearly at a run. For about two seconds, I thought “What in the world are you doing?” And then I heard the car zooming past my left shoulder. If we’d gone forward, we would have crossed a busy street with no crosswalk against the light into traffic. Yikes! I’ve since become much more cautious when I have a head cold.
Crowded buildings have a sound all their own. Get a hundred people together in a room, particularly one with echo, and it’s anyone’s guess where anyone or anything is! Even if it’s a familiar place, like a mall, sounds of laughter, footsteps, and screaming children bouncing off walls can make it a veritable “maze of mirrors” for the ears.
These are just a few things that continually change the dynamic of my auditory world. We are more used to interpreting our world through sound, largely through necessity rather than desire, but it all does work more often than not. We are continually forced to adapt, and for the most part, at least to me, it’s second nature. Thankfully, today is sunny, my cold is nearly gone, and I am not going to be trapped in a crowded echo chamber anytime soon.