Music for me as a hard-of-hearing person was always an interesting experience. What I considered to be good music included electronica and classical piano along with good base. When all is considered, this would be attributed to my ears’ ability to only hear and isolate singular-type sounds.
When I was a little girl, I used to love the beginning electronic intro just before “Beverly Hills Cop” theme song -“Axel F”. I wore the tape out in my little pink cassette player rewinding and playing that part over and over again.
Men Without Hats’ “Pop Goes The World” pulled me in with its rhythmic melody. I couldn’t hear the lyrics so I didn’t know that Johnny played the guitar and Jenny played bass. I just knew that it sounded like a easy-flowing, happy river ride in the sun. My childhood friend Amy and I used to dance around her sun-lit house to the song on full-blast over and over -with the bass throttling the speakers for my benefit.
The first song I learned the lyrics to was Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. I was in middle school and I so envied my hearing friends being able to sing along with the lyrics with each other and I wished so badly I could do that. I wanted to be cool. So I found a tape that had the lyrics in the jacket and spent an entire afternoon studying the lyrics, stopping and rewinding the song over and over again, practicing singing along with it until I got it damn near perfect.
At the next slumber party I attended, someone broke out the cassette-player and I hurriedly put my dog-eared tape in and pressed play. Even though no one else really knew the song, much less the words, I happily mouthed along with Billy’s rapid-fire diatribe -every single one word. It was a private victory moment for me. I felt cool -even if it seemed like no big deal to others. I felt normal.
My high school boyfriend introduced me to different kinds of music but one moment stands out. I remember he came over one night. He had a little red CRV that he outfitted with a rather extensive stereo system complete with subwoofers that sounded incredible to my limited sense of hearing. He recognized the kind of melody I liked and he brought a song for me to hear -“Sweet Harmony” by The Beloved. I grinned so hard as we listened to it from beginning to end. And then I took the tape with me and wore it out listening to it nonstop.
Depeche Mode, Erasure, U2 and Fleetwood Mac joined my high school repertoire of music that I “liked”. Even the Violent Femmes and Massive Attack. Later, scores of Buddha Bar and Ibiza albums would join the ranks as they all contained at least one if not a half dozen songs with electronic strains woven around some strain of an identifiable bass that I could easily follow.
I have an interesting parallel relationship with music. I can listen to one song with my hearing aids on and then I can hear that same song in a completely different way with ear buds pushed into my ears. Some songs I’ve found that I don’t like at all with my hearing aids but others I adore with just ear buds cranked up at full volume.
Listening to music at full volume with earbuds has an embarrassing downside. One day at work, I was enjoying U2’s “Joshua Tree” album from beginning to end while happily engrossed in a programming project. Halfway through the album, I looked up across my monitor and noticed that Robert -my cube-mate appeared to be mouthing along with the lyrics to the currently playing “Where The Streets Have No Name”. The timing was impeccable. Startled, I pulled one bud out, waved at Robert and asked him “Are you listening to U2?” He smiled and nodded. And then suddenly and in disbelief, I thought…”oh shit.”
“Robert, can you hear my music?” He smiled even wider and nodded. I flushed from head to toe and sheepishly turned my music down.
Fast forward to today, I’m sitting on the porch listening to my list of favorite oldies on YouTube with my good ear when I decided to try to see if I still had any natural hearing left in my left ear to listen to music.
To be cautious with my still-healing ear drum, I turned the music down before carefully nudging the other ear bud in to my ear. As the intro starting to wind up, I slowly pressed the button to increase the volume. And I heard nothing. I knew this would be a possibility but I guess you can’t really be prepared for that. I don’t regret this decision but I cried.