Volume modulation issues

Ever been told to speak up – or tone it down – when you think you’re speaking at a normal level?

Happens all the time in my ASC world

When noise levels around me get way more than I can bear, I have to reach for my ear defenders. That’s sort of OK for me although they don’t cut out enough noise for me to be totally comfortable. But when I’m wearing them and I speak to those I’m with, they can’t hear me. Actually it’s just one person – my husband – I’m referring to. Then he gets irritated because I seem to be whispering.

That scenario has a kind of reverse logic to it. Many people shout when they have headphones on so perhaps, because I’m aware of that, I go the other way and whisper.

But when there’s no logic behind it? No obvious reason? Why then does my voice volume alter? Sometimes I speak very quietly while at other times, especially when I get excited, my personal volume goes up.

So what’s going on?

A lot of the time I struggle with verbal communication.

Give me a piece of paper and a pen – that’s different. But trying to speak to someone, explain myself, give information, requires so much effort and so much physical coordination. Very simply put:

  • thoughts and feelings have to be encoded
  • codes have to be converted into language
  • words need to be formed from known sounds
  • accurate sounds need to be uttered
  • utterances require tongue and lips and voice-box to be audible

I can stumble at any stage, and I do. Sometimes I can’t retrieve the word I need so I use descriptions instead, eg washing machine might become “the thing you use to clean clothes”. Other times my brain confuses words, eg washing machine might become “dishwasher” as it’s a white good that cleans but is not accurate for what I’m trying to convey. Then again my lips and tongue won’t form the sounds I need and words escape as gibberish. My voice-box not getting the volume right is just another potential blip at the end of a series of potential blips.

What might be happening?

I could say stress or stressful situations but that wouldn’t be entirely true as these are more likely to lead to Shutdown or Meltdown when communication reduces to a point where it stops altogether.

Reduction in volume is more likely to be the result of Social Overload or Sensory Overload. These happen when I’m in a situation of complete bombardment from outside forces. Noise, light, smell; unfamiliar surroundings, crush of unfamiliar people, uncontrollable temperature. New clothes with labels that dig into my flesh. Losing sight of loved ones, even momentarily. Being overwhelmed by alone-ness, and vulnerability. I am a child again with a child’s limited power over language. I withdraw into myself, into my own safe space.

Increase in volume is about celebrating my space in my world and may happen as I emerge from an ASC meltdown or a Bipolar manic phase where I’ve been fairly out-of-control. It is part of how I gradually re-modulate from the total high I’ve been on. I may sing, scream, vocalise generally and randomly. This may be accompanied by dance, stomping, jumping. Or exaggerated hand and arm movements – think hand-jive and expansive clapping. I am my own entertainer and entertainment. Like Walt Whitman, I am large. I contain multitudes.

And after?

Typically, business as usual.

I speak at an acceptable volume. My words are measured and clear. I have the necessary vocabulary, grammar, and syntax at my behest. And so I come full circle.

I believe that it is the cyclical, albeit random, nature of my modulation and speech difficulties that is central to my problem. Most of the time I speak well, some might think confidently. I can instruct or argue a point; discuss or disseminate; praise or persuade.

The change to being quiet and faltering or to ramping up the decibels and speed of delivery can be equally sudden. A case of ‘where’d that come from?’ And so it can appear completely out of character, even wilful; as something that I, an intelligent communicator, has complete control over.

Take this ‘physical’ example: When you become so physically tired that your eyelids drop, you yawn, then start to snore gently, it’s as if your body is taking advantage of your daytime alertness being ‘down’. You have little control and you succumb. External movement or noise may rouse you and that’s the pivot point when you either wake or slumber on. Your ‘daytime’ conscious brain, that should have been alert and working, did not ‘decide’ to become tired, nor to fall asleep. It was overcome by circumstances.

The truth is I don’t have complete control over my changing voice modulation, and the changes are not ‘out of character’ but an integral part of my being.

As always I can only comment from personal experience. But if my readers can relate to this then it’s time for celebration. Sometimes you only realise what may be happening to you when you read what happens for someone else. That’s what my Blog is about.

Being creative is the mainstay of my life, and poetry, prose, and photography is where I express my deepest emotions. I also enjoy the challenge of design and create jewellery, fabric bags, and garments and home items in yarn. Diagnosed with ASD at the age of 68 after fifty years in and out of the mental health system, I now aim to explore and share my experiences over these years. Apart from blogs and short articles I'll share my life in my verse and images.

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