Today I listened to Ira Glass talk with a man a cochlear implant who could never make sense of noise. He got it too late and his neural pathways just could not adapt. He could hear but he could not make sense of the sounds being transmitted to his brain.
Noise — as opposed to ordered sound — was everywhere and he could not tune things out. Things like HVAC fans, the rustling of his clothes and even his footsteps, were overwhelming. He eventually had the implants removed.
I have a tiny sense of what it might have been like for him. I can hear and distinguish sounds very well but I do find background noises very distracting. For example, I get hot very easily and it would make sense if I ran a fan in my office but I don’t because the noise drives me a bit batty. And at home, I hate to turn on the bathroom fan because the noise really irritates me. (I do it however because mold irritates me more.)
After a long day of listening and speechreading (I do both), I like nothing better than taking out my hearing aids and just relaxing with either a book or my iPad. I can still hear things like a fire alarm but overall all my world is much more peaceful.
The irritating background noises are gone and I can’t hear things like my own breathing or the air conditioning chugging away. It’s hard to describe but I guess it’s like being in a very quiet room in the middle of the forest, except I can’t hear birds singing or the wind in the trees.