Saturday, May 19, 2018

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I stopped by Arby’s one night last week and ordered the usual: regular roast beef, turkey ranch & bacon sandwich, and curly fries. “One Arby’s sauce. That’s it,” I said to indicate I didn’t want any drinks. He read the order back to me and at the end he said, “a root beer.”

I wasn’t sure what I’d said that he interpreted as “root beer” but I had to laugh. It just struck me as funny that he heard something that I hadn’t said at all.

After I got home, I saw a graphic on Facebook that said, “Yanny or Laurel” which do you hear? Well, I gave it a listen and didn’t hear either word. I heard “Yammy.” Later, I saw two other people who heard “Yammy.”

“I guess we march to the sound of a different drum,” I wrote beneath the original post. Later, I read an explanation—it depends on which tones an individual hears best, the speakers on your electronic devise, and the acoustics of the room. As an experiment, I had my husband listen to the special word. Both of us were listening at the same time. He heard “laurel.” I heard “Yammy.”

To me this experiment explains a lot. Is this the reason that people hear completely different things? For example, you listen to a speech. One person thinks it’s great and another person hears the flaws. One person hears a profound statement, and another hears nonsense. Okay, so this may not have to do with one person hearing “yanny” and another hearing “laurel,” but in another way it is similar. How we perceive speech is as individual as each person who is listening.

This one word may provide some insight into how a person with dementia might hear something totally different from the words we say to them. Think about it. If two people can listen to the same sound, but hear different words, how much more confusing would the sound of words be to a person with a disease that affects his brain?

Communicating with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s is challenging. Because words may become difficult, tone of voice and body language are vital to good communication with a loved one.

Although disputed by some, Albert Mehrabian’s study of communication is sometimes called the “rule of seven.” His study indicated that only seven percent of communication is verbal, while fifty-five percent is body language, and thirty-eight percent is tone of voice.

Regardless of whether you really believe the rule of seven in normal communications, I would agree that it certainly applies to a person with dementia. When words begin to fail, other forms of communication are essential so that the person understands you. Tone of voice and facial expressions convey your thoughts and emotions more effectively than words alone.

Hearing a mechanical voice say this special word could be a breakthrough in the art of communication if we allow it to be. Some people say the argument is “silly,” and I’ll have to agree to get in a heated argument over how the word sounds to you is silly. It can be a valuable reminder that people don’t always hear exactly what we say even accounting for those who are hard of hearing, or have selective hearing. Even at seven percent, verbal communication is overrated if your loved one has dementia.

Copyright © May 2018 by L.S. Fisher

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