I’ve never understood it.
My whole life I’ve seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor. I’ve also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song. That was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around.
I was born profoundly deaf and all music sounded like trash through my hearing aids.
That is until a couple days ago when I put on a new pair of hearing aids for the first time in years.
The first thing I heard was my shoe scraping across the carpet; it startled me. I have never heard that before and out of ignorance, I assumed it was too quiet for anyone to hear.
I sat in the doctor’s office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking of the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in I couldn’t believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.
That night, a group of close friends jump-started my musical education by playing Mozart, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elvis, and several other popular legends of music.
Being able to hear the music for the first time ever was unreal.
I realized that my old hearing aids were giving me a distorted version of music. they were not capable of distributing higher frequencies with clarity, instead it was just garbled gibberish.
When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.
I finally understood the power of music.
Obviously, I did the only sensible thing and went on a binge of music.
Below are my top 5 favorites from my limited exposure to the world of sound.
1. Mozart’s Lacrimsoa… I know it’s a depressing song but to me it represents the first time I could appreciate and experience music.
2. The soundtrack to Eleven Eleven… I can see how this comes off as narcissistic, it being my own film and all but it’s such a personal work that when I listened to it for the first time I broke down. I felt like I was truly seeing the film for the first time ever. I’m grateful that Cazz was able to capture the tone perfectly. We discussed the film and specific scenes with essay-sized reasoning/deliberations on what should be conveyed. The critical response to the film surprised me and I still didn’t quite get it until seeing the visual images coupled with the soundtrack.
3. Sig Ros’s Staralfur… The first song I had to listen to again, over and over.
4. IL Postino-Luis Bacalov
5. Minnesota’s A Bad Place
Ironically enough, I’m turning my hearing aids off more often than before because most sounds are even more annoying and the only times I have it on is when talking to people or listening to music/birds.
Silence is still my favorite sound. When I turn my aids off my thoughts become more clear and it’s absolutely peaceful.
I hope that one day hearing people get the opportunity to experience utter silence.
What exactly changed between my old hearing aids and my new ones?
My previous hearing aids were only 4 years old but technology has gotten cheaper and better at an exponential rate since then.
Before, I could almost hear the low frequencies at a hearing person’s level, but not as crisp… higher notes on the other hand, I didn’t hear at all.
I never realized how little of a range my hearing aids picked up compared to hearing people until a telecommunications class in college. We were learning about radio equipment and the guest professor told us about how high human ears can hear and also compared to various animals.
He turned around and turned the dial down to the lower pitches. I could still hear nearly all the low frequencies like rest of the class. When he turned the dial in the opposite direction, I blanked out at about 40% and the rest of the class stopped between 90-100%.
It’s an odd feeling learning something so profound about yourself this late in life… But it’s not as odd as the things I can hear now.
It was during Lacrimosa that I realized I was truly hearing pitches I’ve never experienced before. It was like seeing a color I’ve never seen before.
I honestly never thought I would really be able to hear my own soundtracks because I have accepted my deafness, I have always been and still am grateful for all I’ve been blessed with so it was never a big deal to me.
Now… I’m overwhelmed and beyond grateful.
But this is just the beginning. That’s why I’m asking you to give me the name of the most beautiful songs to you.
I’ve posted the question on reddit and will listen to the top 30 upvotes and then post my top 5 from that batch.
UPDATE: Wow… Just wow.
14 thousand comments on reddit and counting.
I’m humbled and grateful for every one of the comments, upvotes and the endless amounts of music suggestions.
Currently the most upvoted comment isn’t a song suggestion but rather a suggestion to listen to the music from the beginnings of its orgins. Here’s the original comment below as submitted by GiraffeKiller- “This is like introducing an Alien to the music of Earth. I wouldn’t know where to start. Once you’re through your kick on Classical, I might start with music from the 50′s and progress through each decade. You can really see the growth of modern music like that.”
I think it’s a wonderful idea, and will be blogging about my journey into the world of music. As many of you have pointed out; music didn’t start in the 50′s, so I’m going to start with the earliest written form of music… I’m going to start with Guillaume de Machaut’s Agnus Dei. (Composed sometime between 1313 and 1365)
I am still posting my top 5 next week… It will be a difficult task considering all the submissions.
This week I am going to re-watch my favorite film of all time, Baraka. This will be my first time being able to hear the soundtrack of the film. I will be posting about that as well.
Also for all of those asking- the hearing aids I purchased are the Phonak Naida S IX UP Premium.
Again, thank you for all the kind words and shares!
Even if you’re not hearing music for the first time ever, I suggest looking through the suggestions and expanding your musical tastes. You never know how many more days you have left to hear…. Trust me on this one, you don’t want to miss out on a great song.