…and Sounds like Asperger’s…

The most fascinating sense of mine is probably my sense of hearing, as I am indeed a musical savant and hear music much differently than everybody else. I often receive questions relating to my sense of hearing, which is so acute that I can hear frequencies that usually only animals can hear. I would like to address a few of the most common questions I am asked in this blog post.

I am most commonly asked about my synesthesia and specifically about how I can tolerate being in a large ensemble when I am highly disturbed by loud noises. To answer I usually relate the two situations to a painter creating a painting. Being in an ensemble is much like painting a calm landscape with harmonious colors and flowing shapes and lines, while other loud situations (such as large crowds) are similar to taking a paintbrush and slapping paint all over the place randomly in order to create noise. This disturbs me greatly and I often become agitated or upset in such a setting.

The main trigger for my hypersensitive hearing is, as I have mentioned in other posts, the elements of surprise and disorganization. Fire drills are an extremely difficult time for me, as the noise is extremely grating to my ears and makes my eyes hurt. Having this knowledge, I can become very anxious if I know that a drill is imminent. My solution has been to excuse myself from the classroom and wait outside until the alarms sound, therefore successfully avoiding both the noise and the crowds.

Another hearing-related issue that makes itself quite present is my tinnitus, which has been quite severe in the past couple weeks along with depth perception issues and tics, a sure sign that my spring allergies are in full swing. Ever since I was a young child I can recall having some degree of tinnitus and can even remember using it as a pitch training game in which I would try to identify the pitch of the tone. This can sometimes make it very difficult to get my attention, and I have noticed especially in the past few weeks that I have needed people to repeat themselves more and more.

It can also sometimes be difficult for me to distinguish the tones that are produced by the tinnitis and physical tones that are so high-pitched that I seem to be the only one to hear them. These physical tones proved to be extremely problematic my freshman year when I discovered that not only lost all ability to concentrate when exposed to one, but that they triggered severe headaches. This problem presented itself quite often, as high-pitched “mosquito” ringtones were very popular amongst my peers at that time, and my math teacher had a problem with his computer that caused it to emit a sustained tone when turned on. I actually went so far as to add to my 504 plan a clause allowing me to remove myself from any classroom I cannot focus in during tests or quizzes.

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