The Joy of Reclaiming a Lost Sound

Gael Hannan
May 2, 2023

Recently, on a walk in the woods, I sensed a half-forgotten fragrance. It was the smell of tall cedars, firs and undergrowth warming up after the winter – earthy, sweet, green.

I hadn’t smelled it for a long time, and it came with a jolt of pleasure. Over the next couple of days, I experienced similar smells that I felt were from “before Covid”.

Two years ago, I had a month-long bout of Delta, the Big One. I was spared the respiratory problems, but besides making me feel miserable, it caused some hair loss, worsened my tinnitus, and played havoc with my senses of smell and taste.

It took a long time for the parosmia (distorted sense of smell) and taste issues to improve. Sometimes I even experienced fantosmia, the perception of an awful smell (think, garbage) that had no source. Even today, products containing chemicals such as hand sanitizer or cleansers don’t smell right. Coffee no longer offers the smell of joy although at least I can tell it’s coffee. Wine is tasting better these days, but I need a robust chardonnay rather than a more delicate type.

So last week when I sensed these distinct, beautiful smells, I was thrilled. I realized I had just come through another, very mild and short bout of Covid: had covid #2 reversed or improved my lingering parosmia?

It’s too soon to tell, but my delight in those reclaimed smells is the same as when I hear long-lost sounds that have been returned to me after receiving my cochlear implant.

The ticking of an old-fashioned clock.

Birdies fluttering in the bushes.

Leaves falling on pavement.

Hot air coming through the vents.

Rain on the roof.

High-frequency speech sounds – s, t, k, d – that make words more understandable.

It is difficult to describe to a ‘hearing person’ how wonderful it is to hear these sounds again, and some of them perhaps for the first time. I can’t remember hearing the subtleties of speech before. It’s a joy even when some sounds actually irritate me; someone playing with a bag of chips is high-frequency annoyance!

I ask the Hearing Husband, “What’s that sound?” He’ll ask me what it sounds like, or he’ll describe the many things he’s hearing. We whittle down the possibilities; a leaf blower in the distance could also be a truck driving by. Bird calls are harder to identify, but at least we confirm that it’s actually a bird!

Sounds that had been long lost to me, I hear them now with gratitude.

And that’s all this little article is about – appreciating and being grateful for the wonders of reclaiming the lost sounds and smells of life.

Leave a Reply