Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Of kitchens and pigeons--and hearing loss

On our weekly dinner outing tonight, my friend Betty and I enjoyed tomato basil soup and one crab cake each at Winslow's Wine Café. It was good, but the café was so loud that I could hear little of what she said. Even adjusted to restaurant setting, my hearing aids only do so much. We asked the waitress about moving outside, in spite of heat, but she warned that the flies were really bad. So we enjoyed a lopsided conversation. We agreed next week would be someplace quiet.
As I got out of the car, Betty suggested a restaurant but it was a name I wasn't familiar with. She kept repeating it--somebody's Kitchen. I wondered why I'd never heard of it, since I'm the one who scouts out new places. Finally she said "On White Settlement Road," and I suddenly got it--the Clay Pigeon, one of my all-time favorites. I simply misheard "Pigeon" for "Kitchen."
Mishearings are a common part of hearing loss. It's not that you don't hear, your brain simply doesn't process the word correctly, substituting something else entirely, usually a word that fits the sentence structure but makes no sense.
In the July 5 issue of the New York Times Oliver Sachs wrote an essay about mishearings,, citing the time he thought his assistant said she was going to choir practice. He was puzzled because in all the years they'd worked together, he'd never heard her mention church, let alone choir. Turned out she was going to the chiropractor. Other mishearings he cited: poetry bag, for grocery bag; oral numbness, for all-or-noneness; and the corker, "Kiss my feet!" for Christmas Eve.
This business of mishearing is one of the most frustrating about hearing loss. Sachs cited all kinds of theories, including the Freudian analysis of word substitution (which he discarded). I think the brain is scrambling so hard to make sense of what the ears don't really hear that it substitutes a word.
Particularly on the phone, it is sometimes hard--impossible?--for me to make sense of one word. I get everything else that's being said but that one word. This frustrates particularly my brother and my youngest daughter--and then I am left feeling guilty. As Oliver Sachs says, the best course is to see the humor in it but that too is hard.
But I'm looking forward to dinner at the Clay Pigeon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, I too "hear" things, but I realized all I'm trying to do is fill in the blanks. Example: a few people have "called" me *****le, *****ard and a few other names; funny I don't remember anyone been so disrespectful toward me before...