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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Blasting My Eardrums Until They Bleed

I have some issues with my hearing. I was told almost twenty years ago that I was probably going to go deaf in ten to fifteen years. It hasn't happened, thankfully, but I have lost certain tones. I can't tune a guitar by ear anymore, so I have to use a tuner, though I can tune within a song maybe - or maybe I'm just fooling myself there. Still, I've noticed some issues. I have selective hearing, but in a medical sense, rather than the psychological kind where you only hear what you want to hear. In my case I only hear the loudest thing in the room, which makes it difficult for me to hear anything in crowded rooms or offices. When I talk on the phone I can't have anything else on. This might have been the originally prodding for my dislike of having a television going. I couldn't hear anything else that was going on, and that can be a frightening thing.

I woke up completely deaf once, and it was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. The fact that I was still half asleep and didn't have a clue what was going on didn't help, of course, but to suddenly lose one of your senses, not expecting it at all, was rather terrifying. I thought it was permanent, and that my doctor from many years ago had been proven right. It lasted for about fifteen minutes. The only things I could hear were the vibration directly within my body, or from anything touching me. The throb of my heart, the rush of my blood through my veins (which is what you hear when you put a conch shell up to your ear - it's not actually the ocean, no matter what your mom told you), and nothing at all coming through the air of my bedroom.

I don't know what caused it, but my hearing snapped back to its usual level much to my relief. I wasn't ready to be deaf yet. I hadn't made my preparations, like having a flashing light for my doorbell, or a vibrating alarm for my bed. I wasn't self-sufficient enough to live without my hearing. I'm still not, but that's neither here nor there these days. These days I go through a different kind of disability - a lot of which is caused by all the drugs I have to take for pain and nausea, but also the limitations of my damaged body that has yet to be repaired. Thankfully I have my daughter to help me there. She's my boots on the ground, so to speak. If it was was absolutely necessary, I could survive on my own, but it would be hella painful I tell ya!

My hearing has been a very important part of my life, though. The enjoyment I get from hearing or creating music can not be emphasized enough. Without music, what emotion would I really have to enjoy? I don't like drama concerning other people, or in my own life. In some ways I get lonely and would love to be part of a good relationship, but dramatic emotional upheavals are rather terrifying to me. I just don't have the energy for them, either. What energy I do have, I'd like it to go into worthwhile things. Hopeless and tumultuous romances are not worthwhile. Real love, being cherished and trusted, being accepted for who I am, knowing I can have absolute faith in someone - those are the things that would make romance worthwhile. I'm not holding my breath. It's doesn't do me any good to run out of oxygen at my age.

So music comes back into the picture. I started playing the piano when I was four years old. I actually used to perform and compete in music competitions. Won quite a bit, too. I wasn't passionate about it then, but I was good at it. I played my first song at four, by ear, and from then on it's been a big part of my life. I took both practical and theoretical music lessons then. I learned to play the guitar by ear, though I did turn to sheet music later on. I've played the French horn, timpani (really big drums), bells, real xylophones, chimes, you name it.

The only type of instrument I've never learned to play is a woodwind of any sort. My favourite was playing the set of Ludwig drums in my grade 11 music class. I could beat the crap out of them and nobody cared. It's what you were supposed to do. Hell, I used to drum on the school walls, and later I used my drumsticks on stuff all over the house - books, my bed, my legs, anything to be pounding the crap out of something. I'm rather aggressive by nature. Sadly I feel like a wolf that's lost its teeth these days.

My absolute favourite music genre is the most bizarre choice possible for a 42-year-old feminist. I have to say there aren't a lot of female-friendly hip-hop artists out there. They all denigrate women it seems. If not in their lyrics, then in their videos with the ass-poppin' and booty-shaking. The song I'm most crazy about right now is one by a group called Electrolightz. Miss Outta Control - people think it's actually LMFAO who did the song, and I know parts sound like their work, but it wasn't. Oddly it comes from The Sims 3 - or at least that's where I first heard it - in the Simlish, of course. (For anyone who has never played a Sims game, Simlish is the garble that they speak to avoid having to use a real language - saves them money on translating, too, since the games are sold in pretty much every country in the world.) I should probably be embarrassed that I play The Sims, but I'm not. I don't care what other people think, and if I can't have a real life of my own, I'll have a life that's completely under my control. I do like my playing-God games. For those who are interested, here's the real song (in English not Simlish). They need to work on their video production, but their audio is great. Easily managed by computer, though. Too bad the boys are a little young for me, but then people would say the music is too.

 
Miss Outta Control - Electrolightz - Official Video
 
About twelve years ago I started playing around with audio editing programs. I started out with Cool Edit Pro, which was bought out by Adobe and re-branded as Adobe Auditions. It's in their Creative Suites packages. At the moment I'm using a free program called Audacity, which is actually pretty damn good, especially if you install the plug-ins that are also free. I use it for not only editing music, but also for voiceover work. Plus I've got a decent singing voice (some think it's amazing, and others think it's pretty good, so the truth is probably more to the 'pretty good' end of things) and I like to record using instrumental versions of songs. Karaoke on the computer basically.

To that end, I just bought myself a new headset (Turtle Beach model X12 in case you're curious). I got it off eBay, new, and probably saved myself about $12. It's a USB gaming headset, but it has microphone monitoring built in, and it's actually got a built-in amplifier. It was meant for Xbox gaming, which requires amplification for the audio. The problem is, my laptop has one of those so-called 'smart jacks' which combines the headphone and microphone input into a single jack. It takes a 4-pole plug. Regular jacks are 3-pole. It's nice that the plug is 'smart' enough to detect two separate devices, but it's a relatively uncommon feature on any actual headsets out there. Ergo, I need a 4-pole TRRS jack adapter/splitter. Regular splitters don't work. So, back to eBay I traipsed (electronically speaking), spending a measly $3 and change, including shipping. Still, it means waiting time for the item to be delivered.

The good news is that even though I can't record with the microphone, I can still hear myself in the headphones when the headphones are plugged into the jack and the USB is connected. The great news is that the in-line amplifier makes it possible to crank my music past the enforced safety barriers contained in the hardware and software of my laptop. A restraint I chafe under. It's none of their damn business if I want my ears to bleed. I crank it as loud as it will go without distortion from the bass boost. In part because it's the only way I hear everything in the songs, but also because it's just a damn good time. I loved doing that in my old car. I used an mp3 player with an FM transmitter, and just cranked it. I'm not the sort to blast a house stereo when I have close neighbours, but the road was fair game. And, yes, I know I look ridiculous, singing in my car to music that's a full generation younger than I am. Ridiculous is good, though. It makes me happy. At the moment, with the potential for bleeding eardrums and my head actually vibrating inside from the noise, I'm just ridiculously happy. Might as well enjoy the moments!