Listening to audiobooks and podcasts

In a comment to my post about Girl with a Pearl Earring, Donna wrote

As a retired English teacher I now read about 122 books a year while I walk and run errands–an MP3 player is the best thing since sliced bread and my eyes do not let me peruse the pages I was once able to consume. If you thought this book was good, the audio version adds a depth you would have to experience to believe. What I love about audio books is that one’s imagination is allowed to flourish for the characters jump out of the story as the narrator changes voices for each one. I read only the unabridged ones downloaded from or those full length ones available from my library as i don’t want to miss a word

and well, it just doesn’t work that way with me !
It so happens that I’ve got weird ears and that they don’t have the right shape for unobtrusive earphones. They just don’t hold on there. Which means that I have to use different earphones, usually pretty big and that they are not very comfortable.

EarplugsAlso, I live in a noisy big city, so unless I turn the sound really high, I can’t hear properly. And if the sound is too high, then my poor sensitive ears can’t take it.
Up to now, not only have I not lost my hearing, but as I said, my ears are very sensitive and most of the time, I find the level of noise unbearable. For example, I cannot watch a movie in a movie theatre without wearing earplugs and they never leave my handbag, just in case. I have even consulted a doctor about this and he said there was nothing wrong with me, I should just keep my earplugs at hand

iPodFinally, while I love listening to music while I am at my computer, it gets to me if it’s too close to my ears and too loud, so the MP3 player or the iPod is not for me. I actually own one that I am not using 😦

This only touches the noise aspect. But there is another aspect. I am a pretty speedy reader and mostly, any book or extract I listen to, goes much slower than I would if I were reading, and I find that my attention ends up wandering and I lose track of what’s being said.
In the same way, while I often find videocasts interesting, podcasts are just not my thing.
So although I have recently started recording (in French) for LibriVox, enjoyed this new experience and will certainly go on doing it, I’m not sure that I’ll be listening to very many things.
Just because I like reading at my pace and having my own representations of what is happening on the written page


19 thoughts on “Listening to audiobooks and podcasts

  1. Claude, I too cannot stand to be in a movie theatre without a pile of kleenex stuffed in my ears. And it took me a long time to finally get some headphones that cover my ears as every other kind just falls right out. My dad gave me some for xmas and they have a noise cancellation feature meant for noisy buses or airplanes. I don’t recommend it, it just adds another level of white noise to distract from the real noise. At least the full ear coverage means I can actually hear the music now.

    My hearing is fine but I do find if there’s too much going on around me I get very irritable as I can’t understand what the person in front of me is saying. I can’t separate out the background anymore. Too many rock concerts I think 😉

    As for podcasts, my husband just made me a disc of them but I haven’t tried it out yet. Having my hands free while trying to listen is just not a good combination. We’ll see how it works out.

  2. I’m fed up with oversized earphones that keep dropping out! Has anyone tried “intra auricular earphones”??? Adverts say they’re “perfectly adapted to the shape of your ears, and guaranteed noise-free”. I’m dithering…

  3. Claude, you need to get a docking station with speakers for your iPod. That way you can have it near your computer and listen to all the grand tunes you have on it. I use my mp3 player to mask the ringing in my ears from tinnitus so I have it plugged in to my skull as I type this. Seems like I spent too many years of my early manhood in very noisy environments. Plus I’m old now LOL. But I agree on the volume. My wife has commented ion the past about how she could barely hear the radio in my car when we were a young couple in high school. I have always wanted to be able to hear what was going on around me.

    As for the recorded books, I tried a couple from Project Gutenberg. Imagine if you can, Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim in a female voice. After I had read them both a number of times I just couldn’t accept it. I’m certain there are books that seem proper in a female voice, but not Conrad’s.

  4. Movie theaters are way too loud – it all started in the late nineties : it’s as if the movie is dedicated to deaf people !!! Although I don’t wear ear plugs (I probably should, especially at concerts) I find the noise level way too high.

  5. For audiobooks, like Myron says, it depends a lot on the reader. I love hearing John le Carré read his books. He could have been on the stage. He is a superb mimic. He does different accents. The narration flows. I light a candle, sip wine and, in the near-darkness, let the story come to life. Great entertainment! It brings me back to radio time, in the late 30’s, when the whole family would sit every evening, in a semi-circle, facing the huge box, to listen to the continuing saga in vogue at that period. No television set ever gave me the same togetherness.
    Audiobooks are also great for poetry. It would be hard to rival Richard Burton reading “THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER”. I just shiver!
    I cannot go to movie theaters anymore. Too loud. I panic!…
    I depend on suggestions of friendly bloggers to put stuff (500!) in my new MP3. It’s a good companion for medical’s waiting rooms.
    STILL prefer BOOKS to anything! Like you, Claude.

  6. Claude, I also prefer reading a book to listening. Like you I am a speedy reader.
    The only kind of “background” music I like is light classical or easy listening instrumentals.

    aka Chancy

  7. There’s nothing like reading a book yourself. You formulate the entire story in your mind.
    Although I must say I did enjoy having The Hobbit read to me way back.

  8. When I try to listen to an audio book, especially if I am in the car, my mind wanders off to something I need to do, etc. and before long, I realize I have missed nearly a whole chapter. I prefer to read at my own pace.

    Movie sound volume is painful to me!

  9. @ Sarah, I tried the intra auricular earphones, once and had the feeling my brain was about to explode!
    @ Matt, you should definitely wear earplugs at concerts, or else you’re running a great risk. Once ear-noises start in your ears, in French ‘acouphènes’ — my dictionary says ‘tinnitus’, they are irreversible.

  10. I don’t like audio books because you can’t stop easily and savor a phrase or sentence or idea. And you can’t back up to check something that came earlier. And, I’m with you on earbuds – I’ve never found any that don’t either hurt my ears or don’t fall out.

    I listen to a lot of music – and internet radio – when I’m working at the computer. The music is all on my hard drive and I have excellent speakers, but late at night I use big headset so I can blast the tunes I like to hear loud without waking the neighbors.

    And I still don’t “get” the iPod or similar devices when I’m out and about. I like to be able to hear what’s going on around me in the street. Maybe that’s the New Yorker in me; anything can happen at any moment, and you gotta be aware 🙂

  11. It’s good to know that you and others share my feelings about listening to stories. Even as a child I hated ‘storytime’ because I could have found out what happened so much more quickly if I could read it myself.
    I remember being punished during ‘reading lessons’ because we took it in turns round the class with everyone following. I’d be several pages ahead so wouldn’t know where we were when it came to me.

  12. I prefer the printed page over audio books and like Ronni, when I’m out and about I like knowing what’s going on around me. I’ve thought of getting one for when I travel but I already have one of those CD/AM-FM radio things and it seems to provide sufficient entertainment to supplement the book I always have with me at such times.

  13. I get audiobooks from the library for the car. I’m in my car for so many many hours a day, that it is a nice break from the brainless radio. I only ever listen to them in the house if the story has me gripped and I don’t want to stop listening.

  14. My hearing has never been the best since a child and I’ve always had problems in crowds with everyone trying to out-shout each other…I usually “hear” very little in those situations.
    I have an iPod and while I don’t use it a lot, I do enjoy it because I can adjust the volume. I like it on a plane or sometimes when I’m walking.
    I’ve never listened to an audio book, probably because I truly love the “feel” of a book in my hands, turning the pages, etc.

  15. You might find it interesting to learn that the way a person who has had a cochlear implant teaches the brain to recognize sounds is by listening to talking books while following the text in the printed version. At first I wasn’t savvy enough to get unabridged talking books and when the reader skipped whole paragraphs or pages, I found myself frantically trying to find where he/she was so I could catch up. I finally started using the pause button until I found where the reader was. I read both visually and aurally an hour a day as homework. I get impatient with the slowness of the reader and, as my hearing improves, find myself reading ahead and have to stop and wait for the audio to catch up.

  16. @ Darlene, thank you for this commment, I found it really interesting to learn how you taught yourself to recognize sounds.
    I really think that audio books are invaluable for a lot of people, which is one of the reason why I lend my voice, on a very small scale, to LibriVox. It’s just that my ears don’t like them that much 😉

  17. I feel exactly like you do with the loud noise. What really puzzles me is how my ears HURT from the loud noises on TV, movies, radio, but I cannot hear people talk…explain that one. Do you have the same problem? I will have to buy earplugs.

  18. Re too-loud movies: Not only are they ear-splitting, but too often the music track is louder than the dialogue, and I have trouble understanding the latter. Perhaps it’s because that makes two competing sounds, and my brain can’t process both at once?

    Ear plugs aren’t a solution for me, because if and when the music stops and there is only normally-pitched dialogue, I have to take the ear plugs out in order to hear it. So I just stick my fingers in my ears when things get too loud.

  19. Google Hyperacusis if noise perception is your problem. Often paired with photophobia. Common in Aspergers. Some unsubstantiated research into the use of melatonin to tone down visual/auditory overload.

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