Saturday, March 30, 2019


Last winter at just the beginning of the siege of snow and wind that for weeks closed roads and burdened stores, I woke up one morning so dizzy that I had to crawl to the bathroom on hands and knees.  It was Monday so the once-a-week clinic was "on."  It's only a couple of blocks away. Normally I just go wedge myself into the schedule, but this time I wondered if the doc had gotten through the roads, so I called.

One of my main defense mechanisms is getting jokey, so I told the receptionist, so young she must have been barely out of high school, that I didn't know what my problem was, but it seemed serious -- maybe even a stroke.  The nurse was overhearing and remarked, "A person with a stroke shouldn't come to a little clinic like this.  She should go to the main hospital."  The receptionist formally advised me of this.  I took it as being turned away

Actually, I was pretty sure I didn't have a stroke but anything is possible.  Stroke:
Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body).  Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.  Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes. Sudden difficulty walking or dizziness, loss of balance or problems with coordination.  Severe headache with no known cause.

I was confused, needed a little sympathy and help thinking.  It has taken me a long time to realize that this young woman didn't have the experience or training to respond any way but according to dogmas.  In fact, if she had believed that I was having a stroke, she should have insisted that I call an ambulance, first, because nearly-closed winter roads meant even an able-bodied person shouldn't drive unless they had to, and second, stroke is time-sensitive and proper treatment FAST can save lives.

So I got mad.  Hunkered down and toughed it out for the several days it took to clear up.  Ever since, I've been trying to pull together some kind of understanding.  When I was teaching, I threw one student into a crisis because I mistook his deafness for balking.  Later a whole class was so rowdy that I called for an audiologist to test everyone, including me.  "Kids" nowadays, who seem to be any age up to forty, need to have loud music all the time.  When my neighbor wakes up in the morning, he plays pounding raucous songs so loud that they make my house rock'nroll.  Sometimes I wear earphones to block out his sounds, including motor noise, though I can't afford the high-end versions.

It wasn't until I ran across Dr. Porges and his emphasis on intelligibility in speech/hearing that I began to figure it out.  First, one needs to know what a "formant" is".  (Porthes will expand your vocabulary!)

"A formant is a concentration of acoustic energy around a particular frequency in the speech wave. There are several formants, each at a different frequency, roughly one in each 1000Hz band. Or, to put it differently, formants occur at roughly 1000Hz intervals. Each formant corresponds to a resonance in the vocal tract."

(  Lund University (Sweden), has a phonetics lab.  As it happens, my basic BS in speech education at Northwestern University included a dose of this material about how we understand each other.  In humans, the second and third formant in both male and female speech always occurs within the sound frequencies of 500 Hz to 4,000Hz.  "We can't understand the meaning of speech without processing the formants, and this difficulty is a feature of individuals with auditory processing difficulties."

Porges is convinced that an important part of the Social Communication System's ability to signal safety is that the sounds must be in the proper range and be highly modulated simulating vocal prosody.  Since Bob Scriver knew more about prosody than one might expect -- being a musician (including singing} -- used to joke about "the right emPHAsis for the vocaBUlary.  Living around speakers of original Blackfeet, as he did, also raised consciousness that unless the proper emphasis, the right prosody, was used, the right words would be unintelligible.  Since Blackfeet used several more consonants (mostly back of the throat sibilants) than English does, it was a major stumbling block for would-be speakers.  An English person trying to speak Spanish can be unintelligible if not hilariious.

This is NOT a matter of pronunciation, so Heart Butte kids used D and T interchangeably.  ("Sattle".  You put it on a horse.)  It is NOT a matter of subtext or a tone indicating sarcasm or amusement.  It is NOT Algerian French theory of meaning, etc. etc.  In fact, the Porges team was looking at frequency bands among mammals in terms of how they conveyed that they were attracted to you or about to eat you for lunch. 

Once I sat in on a piano lesson Bob gave Karen Douglas before a competition.  I see now, looking back, that he was teaching her "modulation" -- when to get a bit louder, when to lag a note or two, etc.  I couldn't even hear the differences, but taken together the prosody affected the whole.  It is so subtle that a person whose middle ear was full of fluid or pus would probably be blocked from picking up the near-subconscious reassurance of prosodic and properly pitched music.  (I've always been a bit jumpy.)

In this high and dry country with its extremes of hot and cold, driven by high velocity wind, everyone is prone to ear troubles, but esp. kids who hate to wear a hat.  When I started trying to search the internet, all I could find was advice for  deaf children, who are already challenged to learn language.  When the old-time Blackfeet men discovered the white man's silk scarves, they were happy to tie them around their throats, but also they tied them over their head like a babushka to protect their ears.  The photos are a little startling.  I'd insert one here, but Google doesn't recognize them.

As a child just beginning what is misleadingly called "latency," I had a lot of tonsil trouble, so my businesslike doc, who lived blocks away, took them out along with adenoids.  Since then and probably because of narrow eustachian tubes and waxy ears, I have never quite warmed to the spoken word as I ought to have.  I'm a lousy singer.  This was not noted in the Speech/Audiology overviews that I studied 1957.  Maybe the ideas weren't known yet.  After a certain point in time, there are no pop songs that are my favs.  I much prefer reading.  Audiobooks are a bit blurry. 

There's a clerk in town who ends up saying to me, "Whut?  Whut?" because I'm not grasping what she's saying.  We end up practically leaning foreheads together in order to clarify.  Luckily, she's not scary.  She just has a different mind-frame and slightly different prosody.  She sold me some Sudafed to keep mucus under control.  Elsewhere I bought a Neti pot because a doc in the past suggested that I blow my nose too hard, driving phlegm up the E-tubes.  A Neti pot is a classic Eastern way to clear the nasopharynx.  Google approves.

There's so much to learn and so much people know but don't convey.  I do understand why interference with radio or tv image is called "snow."  Little bits that can become a dangerous storm.

Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout established The International Misophonia Research Network (IMRN) in 2015 in order to facilitate cross-disciplinary research. Disappointed by her own experiences with the state of the field when seeking help for her own child in 1999, Dr. Brout began efforts to establish better research practice, improved diagnosis, and innovative clinical practice related to individuals with difficulties processing sensory information (with a particular focus on auditory over-responsivity). Dr. Brout established the Sensation and Emotion Network (SENetwork) in 2007, and founded the Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program at Duke University in 2008 ). The Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program was renamed the Misophonia and Emotion Regulation program in 2015.

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