1. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    Hearing Loss

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jaebird, Dec 11, 2014.

    This second part is more of a character development question than a research question, but I wanted to have everything in one place.

    The main character in the book I’m currently working on is partially deaf. What I’m trying to figure out is just how deaf he should be, based on how serious the effects are for increasing hearing loss. What things do we take for granted having both ears functioning properly? The character is living in a wooded area, hiding from soldiers who want to kill him (and previously tried, hence the hearing loss), and trying to survive on his own. I originally had him have decent hearing in one ear and very limited in the other. I’m not sure if I should let him have some hearing in that ear or take it all away, or even take some away from his good ear. He needs to be able to survive on his own in a harsh environment, but it also needs to make life a lot more difficult for him.What sorts of things would be more difficult and how severe would those difficulties be?

    The other thing I’m having trouble with is the fact that this book is written from this character’s point of view, meaning the amount of auditory information will have to be limited, depending on how serious I make his condition. The readers won’t know that he’s deaf until several chapters in, so I want to sort of give subtle hints at the fact without giving it away entirely. How do I make the deafness realistic without giving away too much information too early?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I work with a woman who's deaf in one ear, and she compensates by turning her head a lot when she's listening (facing the good ear toward the sound), watching people's lips a lot when they're talking, etc. She has trouble identifying the source of sounds (I guess she can't triangulate properly, maybe?) and is easily startled if you approach her from the wrong side.

    I don't really know how these would translate into a wilderness setting, but maybe you can figure something out?
     
  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    By trying to survive on his own, do you mean hunting and trapping to eat? Because, if you do, poor hearing would mean that he would be less able to hear his prey, and less able to hear the noise that he was making as he stalked it. Likewise if the soldiers are stalking him - although they man not care about the noise they make, depends whether they have a reason to be cautious.

    Since he's only recently become deaf, he wouldn't have had much time to adapt his behaviour to compensate (as Bayview exampled)...especially if he is unaware that he is deaf.

    One relative in particular, who is hard of hearing, is constantly taking offence because she's convinced that people are whispering - and about her - when they are merely talking normally. You could have him go into a diner where everybody is whispering as he walks in - instant paranoia!
     
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  4. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I have two family members who are completely deaf. One used to be able to hear and the other has been deaf since birth. The main difference that I perceive as an outsider is the frustration felt by the family member who used to hear. When communicating, they will often (understandably) nod along or just stop trying to follow the conversation. My other family member suffers from tinnitus, so they hear ringing or phantom sounds. I think this is also common when someone suddenly loses their hearing, so it could be an interesting way to hint at deafness.
     
  5. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    Thanks. I could definitely make a point to tell the readers that he's turning his head a lot when people talk or when he's trying to listen to something. Or let him be startled a lot by people coming up behind him. One thing I thought of would be to have him swing his head a lot when he's walking around the wood, looking for rustling leaves or something like that that would tell him something is moving up ahead.

    Yes, he's hunting and trapping, but he's been deaf for about two years so he probably has adapted to it by now. I think some of the soldiers are frightened of him--he actually used to be one of them, and a very good one, too. I don't think that they know he's deaf, though.

    I like the idea of him thinking people are whispering about him. He's a pretty paranoid person as it is, so this would fit right into that. Thanks.

    Since the cause of his deafness was some kind of trauma, I think it makes sense for there to be ringing in his ears and I never even thought of that being something he would have to deal with. It probably interferes with what hearing he has left as well. Thanks.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    At least once a year, one of my ears will clog to the point that it feels functionally deaf. I know that it really isn't, because sometimes BOTH ears will clog, and I can still hear loud noises, can hear the sound in headphones just fine, and so on. For the few days that I stubbornly hope that this time I won't have to pay someone to syringe out the ear, I:

    - Have trouble regulating the volume of my voice. When I'm in a quiet place, I speak too loudly. When I'm in a loud place, I speak too quietly. It's possible that in both places, I'm just speaking at the same volume, unable to adjust to the ambient noise. When both ears are clogged, my primary feedback for my own voice is its echoing in my own head--I can't hear it out in the air--so I tend to always speak very quietly. Edited to add: Speaking at an appropriate volume requires frequent feedback from the person I'm with, so if your character is usually alone, he may speak at a very "off" volume when he runs into someone.

    - Have trouble making out conversation, to the extent that I understand those annoying elderly relatives who kept accusing me of mumbling. I can HEAR all sorts of detailed noises, but actually translating the words is difficult to impossible.

    - Have trouble figuring out the direction that noises are coming from.

    - Have trouble gauging the volume of the noises that I'm making. For example, I tend to put things down v e r y s l o w l y, because I don't know how loud a kathunk setting the thing down will make.
     
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  7. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    Thanks for your feedback, ChickenFreak.Yes, the character is usually alone (at least at the beginning), so he likely would speak at strange volume when he meets someone. I didn't think at all about how he would speak to others with this problem. And direction would be a big issue, too. Especially trying to evade people wanting to kill him. And he probably would be worried about how much noise he is making, for the same reason, so he probably would move much slower through the woods than anyone else walking through it. All these things I never thought of! Thanks so much everybody!
     
  8. jccfuture
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    jccfuture Member

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    I have a degenerative hearing disease with only a low-medium loss in both ears. I found out that I had this condition before it started affecting but I became a little paranoid overnight thinking that I was just missing what was going on and what people were talking about. Now the hearing loss is kicking in and the strangest thing is that the world hasn't got quieter but noisier; for example I turn the TV down, then up, and then down again but its still a mushy, fuzzy sound- its either quiet mush or noisy mush. I would say that a quiet forest sounds perfect to me although if it was windy or raining it would be really tough. A storm would be hard but then that would probably be hard for hearing people too, perhaps it would level the playing field or even give the deaf person the advantage.
    I also tend to speak quite quietly because my voice echos around my head and I do to notice things more visually, which is a cliche, but you are forced to be more of a watcher and so you do notice more that way.
     
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