In my last post, I mentioned that a colleague had mentioned the Rolling Stones song 2000 light years from home. I’m not a Stones fan and didn’t know it, so I searched for it and found the video and lyrics, started the video and … couldn’t hear any lyrics. Maybe it was an instrumental piece, or an instrumental version of a song, but the video said “Official”. I finally thought to flip my headphones, and there was Mick.
I have been significantly deaf in one ear since contracting measles at an early age. I wasn’t sure if I’d mentioned that here; a quick search doesn’t show that I have. I’ve had some problems with headphones before, but this was just another level.
That evening, I realised that despite several listens, I had no clear memory of what the song actually sounded like, except that it had a prominent keyboard part. The next morning I listened again and … could’t hear any keyboard. It seems that the vocal is entirely on one track, the keyboard (Brian Jones) is on another and the the guitars and drums are on both. When I flipped the headphones again, I could just sense … something in that ear, but wouldn’t have known that it was a voice, or Mick, or what the words actually are. The only way I can get the full effect is to to listen without headphones. But with one or two people in the house all day, I use the headphones.
My mother told me that I had moderate hearing loss in one ear. Later, I realised that she was probably understating that. On the scale of mild, moderate, moderate-severe, severe and profound hearing loss, I am at least severe – the audiogram I found shows me going off the bottom end of the scale at 80 dB. In one ear. Fortunately, I have normal enough hearing in my other ear. Some years ago, I asked my father what he knew, and he said very little; my mother had taken me to audiologists all those years ago.
This hasn’t stopped me studying classical music (specifically piano) and singing in choirs, but has had a number of other consequences, especially easily becoming overwhelmed in enclosed, noisy spaces. Also, if I can’t hear Mick directly in my bad ear, it makes me wonder what else I’ve missed out on along the way. The fact that I am now working as a legal editor, either in a mostly-quiet office or at home, isn’t coincidental.
Meanwhile, how far is 2000 light years? This page gives the approximate thickness of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy at the Sun’s location as 1500 light years, and the distance to Deneb as 3200 light years, if that helps. Certainly, we’e talking on a galactic scale. But the song mentions Aldebaran between mentioning 1000 light years and 2000 light years. But Aldebaran is (only) 65 million light years away.