Back to the hospital this morning to get the results of a hearing test to try and work out what is wrong with – well, my hearing.

You may have heard of cocktail party syndrome – where people are able to pick out individual conversations over the babble of the background noise. I have the opposite.

In a normal office type enviroment I am fine – but put me in a room with lots of people talking, or music playing and I am almost totally deaf.

All I hear is a disjointed babble.

It is socially very damaging as I can’t join in conversations – or risk trying to chat to strangers in a pub lest I spend all evening saying “pardon?”.

I thought it was the music volume in pubs – but everyone else seems to be chatting without problems (well, without too many problems), and over time I worked out that it is a level of background noise above which it is almost as if my ears give up and decide to go on strike.

Maybe my ears have joined the RMT?

Anyhow – last year I had a hearing test and while they found some slight loss at the higher frequencies it was nothing like enough to explain the problem. So – I had an MRI scan carried out last November and went back today to get the results (yes, six months later).

Nothing wrong.

So – all the tests say I am fine, but the fact is that in even moderatly chatty enviroments, I am practically deaf.

I have now been referred to another specialist and will have to wait for the letter, then the apointment etc.

I am guessing that it might be that the hearing is fine, but the way the brain processes the information may be at fault and it just flips out when there is too much noise around. Not sure if they can fix that.

I just wish they could find out what it is though – as I really do hate going out with friends and then spending all evening nodding and grinning to look like I am joining in – but am actually just sat there bored to tears.


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  1. My father appears to have something very similar. If more than a couple of people speak at the same time, he can pick nothing out.

    As well as being frustrating, it also results in people thinking he’s being rude (“Why are you ignoring me? I’ve been speaking to you for the last five minutes!!”).

    He also went for various tests and nothing showed up.

    I wish I had more positive news but, in his case, the advice was to live with it 🙁

  2. IanVisits says:

    I had been doing research on “the internet”, and there are some companies selling training kits which claim to be able to train your brain to help overcome the problem.

    Whether they are snake oil remains to be seen – and I shall wait until I see the next specialist and ask their opinion before spending any money.

    It is certainly the social aspect which is most frustrating – as you said, people can think a person is being rude when in fact I just can’t hear them.

  3. Nigel says:

    Hi Ian,

    I feel this is quite serious and very concerning. I suffer from something quite similar, though I won’t say the same. I have high frequency deafness, that is I can’t hear anything much above 3.5Hz a normally young healthy ear (i.e someone under 22 or so) should be able to hear up to 22Hz. Therefore my diagnosis is ‘High Tone Deafness’.

    This I feel was brought about from short explosions from various weapons whilst serving in the military and from continued noise from aircraft engines. From the onset of my military service we weren’t issued with Amplivox ear defenders until several years after I had joined. Maybe, and just maybe, it was the crack from an SLR or a blast from a 3.5 rocket-launcher. I’ll never know!

    My hearing problem is very similar to your own, whereby in a crowded pub or restaurant, I can’t hear other’s close by, when many others can easily join in the conversation.

    One night my wife was kept awake by either crickets or grass hoppers in a nearby drain that drove her crazy. I couldn’t hear a thing.

    I had a digital watch with a built-in alarm facility, if the alarm went off my wife could hear it 15 metres away, yet I couldn’t hear it on being told it had activated, until I’d pressed the watch right up against my ear and really concentrated!

    Yet if someone pressed the latch on my outside garden gate, I’be be aware immediately.

    Very annoying and most disagreeable, yet I know no cure.


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