Visual and hearing impairments
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Auditory pareidolia and a brand new BAHA

JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
We all know the horror movie trope: What's that noise? Oh, it's the [totally generic and explainable thing here] of course. 
Of course, of course. It is, to be fair, always something totally generic and explainable but auditory pareidolia is still a terrifying and fascinating experience all the same. 

I have been losing my hearing very gradually over the last thirty years or so and little by little I've lost the teeny tiny sounds. It's easy to miss little noises even when you have the ability to hear them so honestly, I had no idea how much I wasn't hearing. As of two days ago, I had my bone attached hearing aid (BAHA) switched on and it is blowing my mind!

For the most part, I'm very much enjoying rediscovering little noises but hearing something and understanding something are two entirely different things. I'm having a very interesting time with auditory pareidolia which works in much the same way that visual pareidolia does. Visual pareidolia is somewhat more common due to popular interpretations of it such as The Man on The Moon. We all know there isn't a literal man up there but most cultures have some interpretation of the form they see in the shadows on the surface of the moon. Pareidolia is when your brain processes patterns to pick out recognisable shapes. It's suggested that this occurs because we've evolved to look for predators with spiffy camouflaging abilities. We've spent millions of years adapting our brains to survive in the harshest conditions and puzzle out the best survival tactics which is why you might see faces in your nan's floral wallpaper.... or tigers in long grass! It's an occasionally useful evolutionary trait but one heck of a quirk when it's not.

In theory, this makes perfect sense to me, in practice, it is bizarre because with all the additional auditory information I'm trying to process I'm experiencing pareidolia quite a lot. I know for a fact that the noise from the extractor fan in my kitchen is made by a fan's mechanism and the vibrations of various parts... not by ten thousand, tiny yodelling Welsh men. I know this for a fact because it sounded so strange I checked (as expected, no Welsh men in there, not even one) Pareidolia can be hilarious but it's frightened me quite a few times too. Clothes rustling and little swishing noises like closing the blinds sound like people breathing suddenly, like a gasp or a hiss. The first time my cat meowed at me after I got my BAHA I just stared at her in awe and she stared at me ears pricked and tail a twitch, thrilled and surprised by this new level of attention. We just stood there staring at each other, purring and giggling respectively, both totally overwhelmed by these new reactions to the same ol', same ol'. I'm certain she didn't say "yo" but it was still amazing!

What are your experiences of assistive devices (mine is a BAHA but I know there are lots of others) causing bizarre, delightful, terrifying, lovely or other side effects? More importantly, how do you cope with information when you are adapting to receiving it in a whole new way? All advice, stories and anecdotes welcome. I know it'll get easier in time but for now, I'll try to ignore the scary bits and just let myself enjoy the grumpy sky lions (thunder), tiny drummers (raindrops) and crinkly whispers (leaves on trees).

Replies

  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @JenCo, thank you very much for taking the time to share this with us. I found it really insightful!

    I'm glad your BAHA is working so well, I just hope the noises are more amusing than scary! Have they said that you will adjust to this change?

    I currently am loosing my sight and I could definitely relate for your brain filling in the piece. Which isn't always accurate.
    Scope

  • JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
    I'm glad your BAHA is working so well, I just hope the noises are more amusing than scary! Have they said that you will adjust to this change?
    No, there's no mention of auditory pareidolia when getting ready for BAHAs that I know of. I've never had it mentioned by an audiologist or GP. It must vary hugely person to person so I guess everyone just adjusts at their own rate.

    It's just something I'll get used to I suppose. How are you finding visual pareidolia? Hope it's less weird than the auditory kind
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    I hope it doesn't have too much impact @JenCo

    It can be really odd at times, most of the time it's okay though. I guess I'm used to not trusting what I see!
    Scope

  • JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
    Thank you @Chloe_Scope that sounds about right. I think it's just time that sorts it out or makes it easier. I'm hoping by sharing my experience other people will feel a little better knowing they aren't alone. 
  • emmarenshawemmarenshaw Member Posts: 712 Pioneering
    Welcome to the community @JenCo   . What an important and insightful post. Thank you for sharing. If you need any help navigating the community or have any questions, let me know and I’d be happy to help you.
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @JenCo, how have things been? :)
    Scope

  • JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
    Hi @JenCo, how have things been? :)
    Pretty good thank you. I had a lovely Yule. I had no idea that so many Christmas songs had bells in them! :smile:
    Hope you had a lovely festive break too
  • JenCoJenCo Member Posts: 122 Pioneering
    Welcome to the community @JenCo   . What an important and insightful post. Thank you for sharing. If you need any help navigating the community or have any questions, let me know and I’d be happy to help you.
    Thank you @emmarenshaw :) 
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