Friday, June 10, 2016

Hyperacusis vs Super Hearing

USA question Summary:- Are they going to bring back the super hearing classification to market products because manufacturing claims need evidence that humans can perceive sound at a magnified" level? Is decibel perception and super-hearing equivalent?     
Will they re-classify those of us who were "mis-diagnosed" with hyperacusis due to elimination of "super hearing" classifications, so that we are no longer considered disabled in the current world?

In 1999, I was working in an electro-acoustic sound lab creating HF sound waves. With visions of John Zorn's HF warnings on my future music creations,  I was working on an independent animation that I never actually finished. I had already had a lifetime of refined classical piano performance training and was already sensitive to the oscillating of sound waves.
While working on a project sound wave that split 3 ways, I lost track of the upper HF wave. In need of inexplicable help, I was sent to The Sir Alexander Ewing Speech and Hearing Clinic, then one of the best  hearing clinics in the USA. 
The thing was, I became hypersensitive to the high frequency range and was hearing it clearly. However, my perception of the HF range was somewhere between 20% to 50% louder than normal.
The hearing specialist told me that they used to have something called "super hearing" prior to it being "reclassified" into a psychological disorder called Hyperacusis.
The difference being, that Hyperacusis was triggered by psychological sound events such as ambulences, Gunshots, etc. So, in anycase, I was considered Hearing disabled by the last semester of my Music Degree program. They said, it would go away in time, and if anything that aging would correct the issue. I was no longer allowed to wear headphones and the Music School invested in a couple of speakers in the $30k range accomodated my handicap so that I could complete the course. They also fitted me with a pair of rock-star custom earplugs to reduce the incoming HF waves. Total bill in the earplugs with fitting ran about $650 with insurance.

To describe what I went through for 3 years after the HF accident incident is somewhat painful and isolating. #1, I couldn't play most pianos because I could hear each wave distinctly and it began to sound like glasses being shattered on the ill kept instruments. At home, I couldn't stand the refridgerator frequency, it sounded like I was in a roomful of crickets even 10' away in the carpeted livingroom of my condo. When I went to shower, I cringed under the individual water drops hitting the bathtub basin. I decided it was interesting after the initial shock so, I'd hold my fingers over my ears and then take a breath and then listen. It was like seeing with my ears and completely mind-blowing.

Once in 2002 (I was  I sat in an audience of pianists and was the only one cringing and plugging my ears with my fingers during a beginning student duo. The children played on pianos positioned with matching hearts. The masterclass pianist from NZ, actually took note of my behavior over 20' away and made a mention that the pianos should not be placed that way because they give off a high frequency. Apparently, I was the only one in the room who noticed. The typical Orchestra concert pianist (which I am not, i only perform solo) has hearing loss from the decible level of  the Orchestra which also includes tinnitus.

Now it's been 15 years, and my ears are much more sensitive than most people around me. Changes in the airpressure around my ears bothers me to no end. It's not just the sound of the fan or AC that is grating to try and sleep to. Loud non-acoustic environments mentally exhaust me within 3hrs. I learned in 2001-2005 that I can't play on a keyboard (Clavinova) for much longer than 3hrs with speakers. My ears also strain in anticipation of a natural acoustic decay on "fake" acoustic sounds.

Listening to musical mistakes made by students are literally painful, as if someone jumped out and stabbed me with a knife. I'm listening along and know what I should approximately expect on the path and then the frequency is WAY OFF, not even in microtones. Because it is not a simple matter of being startled, my ears go into decible and frequency shock that takes me time to recover from. It is very different from the emotional disappointment of an enjoyable pianist making a mistake.
Going for a swim and putting my ears underwater is like having a magnifying lens. I can hear the seashells softened by the water yet trickling down the beach back to the ocean as the tide receeds. It's absolutely beautiful. And, on occasion above water, I can hear dolphins clicking in the distance.

It is very isolating. Random screams of children are so painful sometimes, I steer away from family shopping times. You'd be more likely to find me in a store on Senior Citizens discount day, simply for the quiet differences. Night Clubs generally have mediocre sound systems that have been overused and blown speakers. It turns into an awful environment for me quickly. I also had to forgo going to weekly or 1/2 a week of concerts and live music I was accustomed to for most of my life.

It's been 15 years since I was diagnosed with Hyper-acusis. And, It seems like they are bringing back the "super-hearing" idea in Hearing diagnosis. I read an article the other day on Super Hearing. Some of the reasoning is because they want to market devices so that they can prove humans can perceive sound in this way.

Sometimes, I think they should make the majority who have damaged hearing from years of headphones and bad music be the "disabled" and take away their Driver's licenses for not hearing enough. Just on the dual piano frequency being such a Classical Victorian era issue, I think my hearing may have been the old NORMAL a century before electronic music and speakers were invented. So, after months of listening to HF sound waves, it seems to me that I became sensitive to the frequency range. I think that by listening to HF waves, maybe my hearing mechanism triggered a way for the rest of my brain to adjust the auditory perception of decibles so that it became clear. I did not experience any hearing loss or tinnitus.