Perception

Below is a repost from the inactive blog of my other author account, updated and edited with permission of me. It was written in 2016 before the cochlear implant, a post for another day.

When you’re young, it seems like the horizon is limitless…then you get older…

Back in the day, or The Reagan Years as I call them, I could hear the flutter of a sparrow’s wings through glass as it fought for seed in the feeder outside. Whizzing by my 40th birthday, the tones in my ears became a cacophony of bells, and I was diagnosed with tinnitus, the beginning of my aural problems. The sound world continued to fade away from a combination of genetics and inner ear infections. The upper ranges are long gone, so no more Mozart’s “Magic Flute” for me. At this rate, Don Giovanni will be a memory.

The worst part of the loss is my world is much smaller . With full hearing, we have 360 degrees of perception on all axis. The world shrinks as your hearing fades. I can hear the noises and identify them by habit (a car engine versus motorcycle), but a room of people is a dozen trombones unless they’re standing directly in front of me and talking to my face. Fast talkers, high voices, and most accents are indecipherable, including Irish accents, sad to say. Think of Charlie Brown’s teachers and you got my hearing.

As you are probably a writer, you may be interested in the technical aspects of this loss, which was insidious in how it stole my ears. I did not wake up one day and go, “Whoops, I be deaf.” That would be inaccurate because I’m not stone-cold deaf (maybe 20% remains). I did come to realize people were tired of me asking them to repeat themselves, slower and louder.

As I am a writer, I sometimes forget that senses exist other than the visual. I have go back through my drafts, and make the conscious effort to have my characters experience life through every pore, and not just through the optic nerve. It’s an odd problem I never would have predicted but hardly unique. I’ve read books where the author is always moving events and people through car chases, it seems, not taking the time to stop and build the scenery through perception.

Is this something you do, forget about all of the senses? Do your characters ever draw a sensuous line across the skin of their loves, eliciting a shudder? Do they listen to the crickets of the cool night as a blanket of humidity covers the grass at their feet? Can they taste the spice hidden in a pan pizza pulled from a hot oven in Rome? Think about that, and don’t wait for a loss like mine to be reminded to expand the senses of your characters.

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