Saturday, February 26, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Sounds


Sound is a tricky topic in my family.  You see, my father was born deaf, as was one of his brothers.  My paternal grandmother lost her hearing as a young girl.  She said she was told it was caused by an illness she had.  I've forgotten what she said it was, but it's written down somewhere not immediately handy.  Both of my brothers have serious hearing loss from childhood.  As I get older, like many people, my hearing is fading, though I'll readily admit mine is likely from too much loud music and jet engines.  But it makes me wonder, was grandma's hearing loss truly from that illness, or was it hereditary?  I have no data to tell me if anyone further back in my tree also suffered from hearing loss, but it would not surprise me one bit if there were others!

For most of my childhood, my home was across the street from a railroad yard.  The sound of trains passing, and workers shuffling the cars from one train to another, became so common I easily slept through them.  Horns, bells, the woosh of air from the brakes, rail cars smashing into each other as they were shuffled about, the rumbling that's as much felt as heard as trains pass are all familiar sounds.  I've been away from that house long enough that I no longer ignore those sounds, but I still live close enough that I hear them on occasion, a mile away.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's, and music was LOUD.  "They" warned us about listening to the music so loud, especially when the Walkman came around and we all put on our headphones.  Rock bands played ever larger arenas with ever larger speaker arrays to get the sound out there.  The Who was awarded a Guinness World Record as the "Loudest Rock Band" at 126 dB, measured at a distance of 32 meters from the speakers at a concert in 1976 (info via Wikipedia), and other bands competed to out-do them.

During my Navy years, I spent over three years working in VF-32, a fighter squadron made up of F-14 Tomcat jets.  They each had two engines.  As a Photographer's Mate, I was involved in configuration of the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS), a large pod of cameras which hung under the plane, between the engines, which were frequently both operating while I was working.  That's a loud environment!  Other jets on the carriers were even louder, with the A-6 Intruders being the absolute loudest thing I can remember ever hearing.  Fortunately, the Navy was quite proactive and insistent on training sailors in use of hearing protection devices, which they supplied, but those things could only reduce the level, not eliminate it.

As my hearing fades, I have noticed that I am turning up the volume on things a bit more than before.  When I catch myself, I sometimes turn it back down a bit.  Mostly, I have trouble with background noise, so when I'm trying to hear someone and there's noise in the background, I frequently ask for repeats, or turn up the volume if I can.  Some day I'll probably end up with hearing aids.

What sounds do you remember from your childhood?  Do you still hear those sounds today?  Have you had to deal with hearing loss?  Discuss in the comments below!

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog has developed this year-long series of weekly subjects to promote regular blog updates and provide interesting ideas for discussion.