Raison d’être

Why this site, hyperaudiosensitive? For a long time I thought that was the proper name for my condition — only after many years of not knowing I had any condition at all. Even today I’m not sure just quite how atypical I am. A day will come, I will go and see an audiologist, and they may describe my condition to me. They will surely not use the word “hyperaudiosensitive,” they will say “hyperacusia” (actually I will say this) who knows what else. I know this but I won’t consider it even half the story. Until that day I am undiagnosed, or self-diagnosed.

Self-knowledge can take a long time. One thinks back to childhood, things that happened, that happened incontrovertibly, that were surely atypical. It helps to have the memories of others to confirm what self-doubt scrambles. Here’s what I know, a snatching: I would complain to my mother about the sound of my clothing. Specifically, the sound of friction of certain fabrics rubbing against themselves — blue jeans, many types of pants actually, but most especially winter coats or fall jackets of a certain type — the “ski” kind. An intolerable dryness and synthetic rustling in my ears. Is that odd? To me it was as natural an aversion as could be.

But there was one incident that confirms my early and ongoing susceptibility to sound — my hyperaudiosensitivity — more than any other. It was a yearly tradition at my elementary school for there to be held in the gymnasium a wheelchair basketball game between the faculty and the eighth graders. I must have been around seven, eight, or nine that year. I did not know what was happening. The sound of the students screaming and pounding on the wooden bleachers all around me, 360°, was excruciating. I was beside myself. The pain in my head was excruciating, I felt helpless rage at those in the crowd around me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. After some time, who can say how long that lasted, a teacher noticed the state I was in and removed me from the situation. The rest of the memory is lost.

At some point after that, perhaps owing to the gymnasium incident (perhaps it was something else?) my parents took me to see an audiologist. Why was the room dimly lit? It was determined that I have sensitive hearing.

Don’t think that this means I couldn’t tolerate loudness — in fact I sought it out in many forms. I can remember being home from school and having the house to myself and turning up The Downward Spiral to level 8 or 9 on the basement hi-fi, pressing play and running as fast as I could away from the CD deck as I waited for the blast of noise. From thirteen on I took drum lessons and later played in rock bands, marched with the marching band to Holst and Tchaikovsky. I can remember my ears ringing for hours after an MXPX concert around 1999. My ears still ring.

This website is simply a place for me to explore my experience of sound, music, audio. I have another website/blog I have had since 2012, Bibliomanic, where I have written about books, literature, and literary translation. Over the past few years, as I have gotten into circuit bending and also learning piano, I’ve been tempted to post thoughts on music and sound to Bibliomanic, but I have refrained from doing so. My reasoning is that most people who read at Bibliomanic do so because they are interested in books and literature, not music, sound, or audition considered as subjects in themselves.

It would be hard to overstate how important sound and music have been to my life. My experience of music in my adoloscence, mainly through the mediums of FM radio, MTV and CDs, has been every bit as formative, if not more so, than my experience of books. It’s absurd to try to compare the two, so different and yet so linked. Sound clearly comes first (infantile conditioning). Frequently my book reading led me to seek out different recordings, somewhat less frequently my listening compelled me to a certain book. My love of Satie’s music led me to read his own writings, and to read several biographies of him. I only discovered the music of Charles Ives after reading an interview where Joseph McElroy mentioned the “haunted montage” that is his 4th symphony. Due to this constant overlap it seems almost ill-advised to begin a second blog when I barely update the only one I’ve had since 2012.

All I really know is, my sense of hearing is (and has seemingly always been) atypical when considered in relation to others. Oftentimes I believe it operates normatively or almost normatively. It’s my hope that by creating this space I’ll be giving myself an opportunity (and a reason) to think through the matter more fully.

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll come along.

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