I’ve written often about music, just a few weeks ago in fact, and how much I’ve missed it since I lost my hearing. I recently wrote this post for Psychology Today and want to repost it here, because I came to a different understanding of my sadness about losing music: the loss of shared experience.
“In international surveys, people consistently rank music as one of life’s supreme sources of pleasure and emotional power,” Natalie Angier wrote in the New York Times recently. “We marry to music, graduate to music, mourn to music.”
The inability to hear and appreciate music is one of the most frustrating aspects of hearing loss. I was never a musician but I was a music lover from my teenage years until my early 60’s, when I lost most of my hearing.
The joy of a glorious piece of music could bring me to tears. It might be something as exalted as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, or a Verdi duet, a Puccini aria, a Mahler symphony. Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, Emmy Lou Harris — all have enormous emotional impact for me. For others, it may be something completely different. But the loss is the same.
Making that loss even more painful is the fact that music is so often a shared experience. Music heard in a place of worship, the opera house, the concert hall, the outdoor arena is intensified by the shared experience.
Like many people, I suffered from serious depression when I lost my hearing, and I think a large part of that was because I could no longer hear music.
If you are a therapist working with a patient who is losing their hearing, it’s important to recognize the magnitude of that loss. Not only the loss of a sense, the loss of easy communication with others, but the loss of music, “one of life’s supreme sources of pleasure and emotional power.”
I’ve written elsewhere about tips I’ve learned through personal experience and from others to learn to listen to music again. Those tips and other practical advice about living with hearing loss can be found on my personal blog at katherinebouton.com.
I refuse to give up on music, so I accept it even with compromises. It’s far better than no music at all.