Guest Article: Lost in Music Trivia

By guest author Sarah Mosher of the Kansas City chapter of the Hearing Loss Ass’n of America

Foreword: From time to time The Hearing Blog will publish articles by guest authors who have a unique perspective. This article struck the editor, because it shows what can go wrong when a normal hearing person dates a hearing impaired person without knowing all of the ramifications. Here is the story of Sarah Mosher at a noisy bar on Sunday night…

Have you ever played music trivia games? You know, where you go to some bar that’s hosting a music trivia night, and they have a really loud announcer there barking out orders, and people sit around and listen to the song that’s being played and try to guess who sings it? Yeah,  me neither…

Well,  last night, a friend of ours wanted to go play music trivia with his girlfriend. So my boyfriend and I decided to go with him. We figured we’d eat dinner with them and chat for a bit and then leave when they started to get into the game. I knew this, and I thought I was mentally prepared for the evening. I was thinking, “Loud, noisy bar. Check. Lots of screaming people. Check. Music in the background I may or may not be able to hear over all the other ruckus. Check.” I was ready for it.

Apparently I wasn’t ready enough. We had a horrible waitress and by the time we got to order drinks we were already irritated with her. I asked if they could make a mojito, to which she replied, “Sure! But not frozen. On the rocks ok? With salt?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw the other people at the table react to her statement. So I repeated what I said: “mojito” not “margarita.” She goes “OHHH… Got it.” When we ordered food, I ordered a cheeseburger, with cheddar cheese, and fries. She responds, “you want fries AND cottage cheese??” Everyone else at the table said they understood me perfectly, so they didn’t know what her problem was. [Editor’s note: Even a mild hearing loss can cause speech to be misunderstood — This waitress needs a hearing test, and probably hearing aids.] But I felt…  a whole mixture of emotions, I guess. Thoughts like this were running through my mind: What was wrong with me? Was I not speaking clearly enough? Can people not understand me like I thought they could? It was not a good start to the evening.

So, the bar becomes increasingly louder as we eat. I’m attempting to lipread around mouths full of food, glassware, and napkins. I catch less than one percent of what people say. I start watching the televisions. They’re showing the Pro Bowl game and the Winter X Games. None of the televisions have captioning on them. My boyfriend is nicely trying to draw me into the conversation and keep me in the loop. I appreciate his efforts, but last night it just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t him, by any means, but I just wanted, for once, to just understand.

Finally, the music trivia game starts. ALL the televisions are still going, ALL the conversation is still going, AND the guy gets on a microphone and starts yelling through it. It was the most ridiculous thing ever and my hearing aid absolutely rejected it all. It was one loud mass of noise. Pure static. No comprehension anywhere. The guy on the mic stops speaking and every single head at my table cocks an ear upwards and gets that faraway look on their faces as they listen to the song being played. I cannot hear the song over everything else that is going on. So we sit there, locked in place as the seconds drag by until one of them bugs their eyes out and shouts “{unintelligible name of band}!”

Oh. I hadn’t thought of that part… they are all shouting out the name of the band they think is playing the song. Yeah, that’s real easy. Lipread the crazy made-up name of some band you’ve never heard of. I can do that in my sleep. (Yes, that whole line is dripping with sarcasm there…)

At that point, I just had it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked at my boyfriend and basically demanded we leave. It wasn’t a very nice exit, but I had to get out of there. I was just drowning in static and lost in noise. My brain was being suffused with noncomprehension. I had to leave.

Walking out of that bar into the cold silence of the winter night was the highlight of my entire weekend. I could breathe again. I could hear the wind whipping around my head. I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly what was going on around me. I could feel the ground under my feet again. I knew who I was.

*whew*

Despite preparing myself mentally for that night of music trivia, it’s really hard to prepare yourself for the unexpected things that can break you down. It’s hard to know what to do in a situation like that. It’s not like people could interpret music. And if they don’t know what the song is, because that’s the point of the game, how are they going to inform you of it? I thought about it afterward, as my boyfriend asked what he could have done to make it better for me, and I really had no answer to give him. I couldn’t think of anything that would have improved the situation. Sure, there could have been captioning on the televisions. We could have had a nicer waitress. But when it comes to playing music trivia, there really isn’t anything that could be done.

Have you ever been in a situation like that, where you just couldn’t handle the “being hard of hearing” aspect of yourself? Where the situation was harder than anything you’ve been in before and you just didn’t know what to do? Please share!

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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

11 Comments

  1. Liz
    February 2, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Yes I was in a situation once, where I went out before Christmas, at a local church,as they had a christmas concerty on. Which was very nice. Afterwards, we were to all do some singing. We were divided into groups, but they could not get the song words up on screen. So I was buggered, as I did not know all the song words, even though it is a popular song. I could not cope, and just walked out. The thought terrified me, the way we were to sing it. You could not get more involved.


    • Supervisor
      February 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      Liz, sorry it took so long to approve your post. I enjoy your blog, and I recommend it to others!


  2. Mary Beth
    February 11, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    YES.. I have gone through this. I call it ‘sensory overload’ and just give up, turn off the hearing aids and take them out. I can’t stand it. I marvel at how the ‘normal’ hearing population seems to be charged up by loud music, noise and confusion while those of us who are ‘hearing impaired’ can’t tolerate it. After all we hear ‘less’ don’t we? I now refuse to go to loud places and restaurants. I’ve never like concerts and bars. I DO like waterfalls, crickets chirping, birds singing and thunderstorms. Glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels this level of irritation with loud places. If I have to scream to be heard, why bother?


    • Supervisor
      February 16, 2011 at 10:55 am

      Mary Beth: You should use FM when you and your husband/boyfriend go to a noisy place: He wears a microphone around his neck, or clipped to his lapel, and the sund is piped straight into your hearing aids, as if he’s just a foot away. Please read this updated Hearing Blog article on FM, as you’ll see how the Bellman Audio Domino Classic will help you cope with places like this.

      Depending on the severity and slope of your hearing loss, the earbuds may be powerful enough for you, so you can take out your hearing aids.
      ~DLS


  3. Liz
    February 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Thats alright.


  4. Myles de Bastion
    April 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Sarah, you describe the experience of any noisy social situation for a hearing impaired person to a T. It sucks and the end result is I just don’t go out and socialize much, incredibly isolating for any young person today right? Your boyfriend sounds great though, don’t let that one go! I usually am on my own and have no-one to help me out in those situations.

    I was thinking about what could be done in these situations and I dreamt up a novel idea. What if everyone had software on their phone that transcribes what they say and sends the text to any other phone in the vicinity? It doesn’t have to be perfect but you’d at least get something to work with. Youtube’s auto transcription functionality is very impressive these days so the technology and noise-reduction does exist.


  5. Charles Riley
    June 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Whenever I find myself in that situation, I take the old hearing aids, and find that it helps. Hearing aids suck ass, and suck even worse ass in noisy situations. If any of my friends have a problem with me being deaf, my attitude is they can kiss my ass. Seems to me that you need to own that deafness of yours…no excuses, no apologies, no justifications. You are deaf. period. be naturally so. And don’t subject yourself to the hell like this just because you think it will help you belong.


    • Dan Schwartz
      June 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      @Charles: I published Sarahs’ guest article because it illustrates how even her boyfriend — someone who loves her — unintentionally made life miserable for her.
      Also, since you hear better with your older (analog?) hearing aids, that means the audie didn’t program your new ones properly~


  6. James roberson
    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Wow, this was a great read. As a hearing specialist who works with the hard of hearing, I am tuned into your dilemma. The short of it is found in some of the readers’ responses (i.e., improperly programmed aids, potential use of FM transmitters and receivers, intolerable noise levels, etc.) not to mention masking issues of speech in noise, poor signal-to-noise ratios in the aids, limited digial technology tailored to your needs, your physical and psychological state in flux from day-to-day, etc.) An increased auditory signal is not the end-all to alleviating the hearing disability or to improving speech (especially in noise). Hearing, as you know, is a complex set of variables that are themselves in constant change due to environments and the nature of the brain function. I would suggest, however, that an FM signal streamed to the aids from a reciprocal mic worn by your boyfriend would benefit the both of you. Additionally, if your aids are digital and incorporate noise suppression capability, your specialist or audiologist should perhaps increase the aggressiveness for noise reduction to ensure a minimum auditory output (or gain) of speech-in-noise at a reductive 10dB to 1dB ratio. Unfortunately, (and not having specifics regarding your hearing loss)that would be my first line of defense against noise. As for the waitress, there is no defense for poor service. Sorry. Good luck!


    • Dan Schwartz
      March 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      James, you are spot-on about using the latest in noise reduction technologies and especially FM, as improving the signal-to-noise ratio is the single most powerful tool for improving speech discrimination. For more on this, please see FM: A Success Story In The Library.

      What’s more, since you’re a fellow Hearing Aid Professional, I can show you numerically in this graph what the improvement will bring:
      Articulation Index AI (or Speech Intelligibility Index SII) - to - Speech Scores graph


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