Friday, July 10, 2009

Water: Acoustic Friend or Foe?

The sound of a babbling brook is on my list of favorite things to listen to. Maybe its high rank is due to the fact that its soothing sound was lost to me for over 20 years. Maybe it's because mountain streams bring back memories of happy times in my youth. I was a water kid whose idea of a great time was hiking in or along a rocky creek bed, logging in endless hours at a water park, tubing in a mountain lake, or even swimming in a motel pool.

Not all water sounds evoke such pleasant emotions. In fact, running water in the bathroom sink sometimes reminds me of those painful dark days of profound hearing loss when I would be embarrassed to discover that I had unintentionally left the water running. No sound = no clue to turn the faucet to the OFF position. I remember how running water would also supply sufficient white noise in the teacher's lounge to cause a major decrease in my ability to understand the words of my colleagues, or to interrupt any communication with my mom in the kitchen as we worked together to prepare a family meal. Any background noise was an enemy in those days.

I am very fond of waterfalls, too, but more for their visual beauty than their sound, I think. Most waterfalls are loud enough to drowned out conversation if standing nearby. Last month, while attending the national HLAA convention in Nashville, Gerry and I were delighted to discover several man-made charmers inside the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The place is a lush rainforest-like wonderland with 11 acres of indoor gardens, complete with dancing fountains, meandering streams, and noisy waterfalls. We managed to make time for an indoor boat ride to see one of the larger waterfalls from a lower vantage point.

To say that the Gaylord Opryland was a spacious, acoustical challenge is a bit of an understatement. Aside from the water sounds, consider that the glass roof enclosing the resort was 15 stories high, the main restaurants and cafes were open-air, most of the walkways were elevated, and the place was sold out (2,881 rooms!). In the presence of so much background noise, I did not expect to be able to participate in conversations while out and about. After all, I am really a deaf person who hears through 2 implanted processors. Yet, while standing in one of the shopping corridors, I asked an employee for directions to the ladies room and understood his answer! I chatted with fellow Advanced Bionics CIers amongst the throngs and followed the dialogue! Gerry and I conversed while walking the "miles" of walkways without a problem! An incredible experience for this bilateral bionic babe.


Denise Portis said...

I, too, love the sound of water in nature (or even man-made look alikes!)

The hotel is a beautiful place... I went one time for a Christian Psychologist convention with Terry about ten years ago.

Blessings to you and yours...

Kim said...

What a beautiful post to read!! Life changes and sounds become different to us as our life changes and grows.
I love the picture of you and Gerry! You two are really special people!

Laurie said...

Sheila, it was so nice to see you in person at the Convention! I only regret that we did not get our picture taken!

I, too, am challenged by the different sounds of water....I don't like all of them but I do like the softer, soothing ones.

Have you been through the Knoxville Airport? There is a water fountain there in the main area and I haven't found one person that likes it...except when it is turned off! It is pretty to look at but one cannot hear or carry a conversation, even normal hearing persons!

Hope to see you and Gerry in Milwaukee....I'll be there!