Can you sue your fairy godmother for malpractice?

I always thought it would be cool to have a superpower. You know, be able to fly, be invisible, walk through walls, be utterly graceful … impossible things like those.

Turns out I have a bit of a superpower after all. Took me long enough to figure that out, though. As a child, I figured it would be pretty damn obvious to me that I could do something that other people couldn’t, right? Well, it would be if I could fly or turn invisible. Those things are apparent, so to speak.

Instead, I find that I can hear all kinds of obnoxious noises that most people cannot hear. The hell of it is, it’s a lousy superpower.

First of all, it’s hard tell you have it. I know, you don’t believe me. “What,” you ask, “is so hard about that? You hear things, other people don’t, they’re amazed. Instant fame, right?”

Fame isn’t quite the word for it. I hear things, sure. I hear all sorts of annoying high-frequency shit, mostly electronic stuff. But for the fame scenario to happen, there’s a fixed series of events that must first occur.

Firstly, I must realise that I am hearing something that other people aren’t. Most of the time I don’t know what other people aren’t hearing. High-frequency noises are background annoyances; they’re not the sort of things that are important to the average person’s Ümwelt, their significant, subjective sensory world. (Probably because er, a lot of people can’t hear them, at least not past youth.) Since they’re not especially notable, the sounds are not common signifiers. People who can hear them don’t have a functional use for such noises, and therefore don’t mention them. I just assume that nearly everyone’s hearing what I’m hearing. It’s not until I make mention of something, asking “What the hell is that annoying noise?” or noting with alarm, “Something is seriously wrong with your hard drive — it sounds ‘sour’,” that we both realise that I’m hearing things, and they aren’t.

Or rather, they think that I’m “just hearing things”. And there’s the second failure point in the fixed series. Either they think that I’m imagining noises because they can’t hear them, or they think I’m just being whiney because what’s obnoxious to me is barely perceptible to them. The third failure point in the fixed series is that they have to value — or at least be impressed by — the “superpower”. But no one is. I’ve yet to do anything heroic with such an ability, aside from predicting the immanent demise of a computer that everyone knew was old and cranky anyway.

These are not the grand moments of realised superpowers we script in our daydreams.

Granted, there is something satisfying about announcing to a student, “Your cell phone’s ringing; weren’t you supposed to keep that in your locker?” Student of course denies having the device on their person. Student thinks they’re being clever by having downloaded that “mosquito ringtone” that supposedly older people can’t hear. I of course, can hear it, despite belonging to the demographic group that gets dubious thrills like annual mammograms.

(If clicking on the mosquito ringtone link in the article to listen to the 17 kHz sample, then laptop users should first plug in some high-quality headphones because crappy laptop speakers don’t go that high.)

And it’s only a little useful, inasmuch as I have SuperMomHearing above and beyond all such necessities, which neatly made for my (ex-)husband’s hearing loss, but also which made for poor sleep. There’s nothing like waking bolt upright because a cat is hacking, two stories down, at the other end of the house. (That’s “hacking” as in coughing up hairballs; we don’t have LOLcats fixing motherboards or scripting code.)

Not only can I hear all this stuff, but I’m overly-sensitive to loud, sudden or high-pitched noises. When someone drops a glass in a restaurant, I nearly jump out of my seat. I keep earplugs in my purse to dampen overwhelming situations, and try to avoid being indoors when they test fire alarms at school.

Can I sue my Fairy Godmother for malpractice? Most of the gifts are okay, but was it really necessary to give me the hyperacussis, or Muses that are such night-owls? I mean hell, I’m exhausted, it’s midnight, and then one’s gotta grab me by the collar and pester me until I’ve written out some long piece of poetry or prose. And although it’s handy to be able to scratch my own back, the weird bendy tricks that come with hypermobility don’t really make up for the creeping osteoarthritis. But that’s a rant for another day …

(Speaking of Beings Fantastickal, I really need someone to come by and engage in some pest control, as we have a terrible infestation of Tea-Sucking Færies. No sooner than I brew myself a nice cuppa then I turn my back to attend to a needy cat, or go riffling through a stack of papers or heap of books, and one of them flits by and has drained off a goodly portion, leaving me cold dregs. They’re a right bastard of a nuisance, especially considering they like to mischievously break pencil points.)



  1. 6 September 2009 at 4:37

    […] There’s certainly nothing exciting about hyperacussis, as I’d previously described in Can you sue your Fairy Godmother for malpractice? Some things like the are just annoying; were I graceful, the hypermobility might have enabled me to […]

  2. 19 April 2009 at 18:50

    […] as described in “Bridge Load Limit”.  As I’ve described before, hyperacussis is a “super-power” that truly, truly sucks, even when you don’t have a profoundly debilitating […]

  3. Sandy Whalley said,

    6 February 2008 at 6:14

    Hi, we may joke all we like about hyperacusis but it is extremely debilitating and I ‘pray’ every day for a cure. I live in a townhouse and when the woman next door sneezes, I almost pass out. The neighbour on the other side walks around in her high heels and the clicking on the tiles drives me nuttier than I already am. As for weedeaters, leaf blowers and the incessant music in every movie, comedy or drama on TV…… well, let’s just say – ‘Silence is Golden” ….. However, when all is silent I hear my tinnitus. Help…… ????

  4. Jacqueline said,

    31 July 2007 at 17:44

    Guess I’m lucky, my coworkers at least have the good grace to feel apologetic when they have to turn on that old monitor that makes horrible noises that only I hear! (Ok, occasionally they look a little gleeful, but sometimes I pester them too)

  5. Sally said,

    28 July 2007 at 17:23

    So, we are sisters in sounds and now mammographs too.

  6. wheelchairdancer said,

    27 July 2007 at 17:36

    Ohhhh. Your fairy godmother either has a sense of humour or she needs some more practice with her wand.



  7. mcewen said,

    27 July 2007 at 13:49

    Thank you . Very interesting and helpful.

  8. andrea said,

    27 July 2007 at 13:07

    Dog whistles are 15 – 40 kHz. Yeah, I can hear some dog whistles, too (no, that doesn’t make me a bitch).

  9. Rose said,

    27 July 2007 at 11:36

    Sometimes “the gift” comes in not hearing. Ben recognized the refrigerator wasn’t running yesterday, and I’ll be damed if the fuse box has shut it down. I’m sure we saved a lot of money, beings as I had just bought $150 dollars worth of groceries!

  10. Ms. Clark said,

    27 July 2007 at 7:20

    I’m almost 48 and I could hear the mosquito ringtone. I bet my Aspie boss could, too.
    How high is a dog whistle…? gotta go google it.

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