Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hear, Hear

As of this week, I am no longer listening to music through headphones. After going to the doctor on Tuesday and hearing from him that I have "noise induced hearing loss", I decided I should try limit the daily beating I bestow upon my eardrums. The way that "NIHL" occurs is through damage to the chochlea by repeated exposure to high intensity sounds. Last night, my right ear was ringing from a show I went to the night before. And yesterday, I could hear the high sqeal in my eardrums during driving school, competing with the hum of three fans, as well as a video about the "5 Keys to Collision Prevention".

About fifty percent of the time my right ear rings anyway. I usually don't notice this until I finally get to bed every night, when every noise and rattle is silenced. Except the constant buzzing in my eardrum, which by now can be considered as permanent. Though cutting out headphone usage will be easy, I don't think I'll be able to pull through when it comes to concerts.

Ear plugs, worn with no shame by the artists themselves, are hardly seen among the crowd in the audience. Mostly they're used by performers and security, standing guard near the stage. To the majority of concert goers, sticking little yellow foam balls in your ears would be considered unecessary, or simply lame. But with my newly discovered diagnosis, and my slight but determined will to get better, I decided to go ahead and maybe try them out at the next show. So I picked some up at a music shop on my way back from driving school.

To test them out, I stuck them in when vacuuming this morning. This was, after cleaning my ears of course, not wanting to remove the plugs to see a smear of ear wax on the yellow surface (now that I think about it, could the purpose of the yellow color of the plugs be to camouflage the ear wax?) When you have an object obstructing the passages in your ear, you can hear every little noise going on inside your head. Every cough, gulp, and chew is amplified. I could hear every little sniffle or clatter of teeth, and of course, that everpresent ringing. And as always, there is that booming noise that comes every time you plug your ears with your hands. To me it sounds like that very low space ship lift-off sound. Or also, like holding up a shell to your ear, except this time the noise is coming from within your head.

So even though most of driving class yesterday was spent worrying about my hearing problem, I did get some bits of valuable information. One of these having to do with how to deal with animals on the road in rural areas. "There is a proper way to hit a deer," my driving instructor said, and everybody laughed, not sure if he was joking or not. He followed by explaining that when you see a deer, the best solution is not to stop or swerve, but to keep going at regular speed. That way, when the deer is hit, it will fly over your car, preventing damage to your windshield. The common reaction is for people to slam on the brakes before hitting the deer, which is then catapulted into the windshield piercing the glass with its antlers (which have killed people by the way). At first I was taken aback by the idea, but after picturing myself on a curvy country road, with oncoming traffic and a semi-truck behind me, I realized that in a "human life vs. nature" scenario, I wouldn't mind knocking a deer over.

And as with every lesson, we had our bit of crazy driving videos. So far, I've seen a man thrown out of a car into an oncoming lane and then run over. I've seen a vicious shopper push a mini-van with her sedan from a parking spot at a mall. And I've seen an angry driver body slam his victim's car hood after a fight, falling off, and then being run over. This week we saw some of the usual mishaps often found on shows like "Most Outrageous Videos", as well as some more than disturbing commercials from overseas.

The last video titled "Russian Woman Parking", reminds me alot of an "accident" I partook in when I was little. My mom, a Russian woman who was attempting to park, scraped the car on a gate once while trying to pull into our driveway at our old house in Mexico. I, being the silly and naive seven year old that I was, immediately jumped out of the car yelling "Accident! Accident!" The car had a pretty significant dent across the passenger's door, with a few metallic gashes along the red surface of our Oldsmobile. The neighbors came out and laughed at the embarassed white lady just learning to drive. The gate remained intact, and the car was eventually sold; dent, humility and all.

With all this talk about crashes and first-time driving collisons, I remembered my first time behind the wheel, or next to it perhaps. It happend at about the same age, and just a few houses down from that cursed gate. As me an my mom approached our house, I asked if I could steer on the last turn onto our street. I was sitting in the passengers seat--a privilege I was rarely granted at that age--and was feeling quite confident pulling up to the intersection. So after my mother instructed me, I put my clumsy seven-year-old hands on the wheel, and made the right turn. Not yet having grasped the concept of steering, I didn't realize that you needed to release the steering wheel to make the car go forward again. So I held on, and kept holding on, until my mom finally slammed on the brakes, meters away from our neighbors gleaming white gate. I don't remember if I was scolded or not for the near collision, but I do know my parents hardly let let me drive so much as a golf cart for the next nine years.

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