I have a disorder I didn’t know existed
There are serious disabilities good people have to deal with every day of their lives. I admire their strength. Then there are some strange things that are more along the lines of 'first world problems' when it comes to disabilities. In fact using the word disability for what I'm about to tell you is overblown.
Years ago I began noticing that I have a difficult time recognizing voices that I hear every day if I'm not actually looking at the person. We used to have our work space configured in a way where we would be facing an outer wall and countless times co-workers would be walking behind us and give a hello. I started noticing too often I would have to turn to see who it was. These were people I saw and talked to on a daily basis, but without the visual I would be lost on many of them. It was less so with some, much more so with others.
I just chalked it up to so many years of wearing headphones and some slight hearing damage. Turns out that's not it. Turns out there's a name for this. It seems I have a disorder I never knew existed.
It's called phonagnosia. It's a term that comes from phone meaning voice in Ancient Greek then agnosia meaning a loss of knowledge.
How 'Deminski' is that to have something so weird and uncommon? Only it turns out it's NOT that uncommon. A professor of neuroscience at University of Southern California, Irving Biederman, says, "There are some people, our survey showed about 3.2 percent, who have great difficulty in recognizing others by their voices."
Yep, without the visual or some other frame of reference, that's often me. But how often? We devised a weird way to test this weird disorder. I'm not saying Professor Biederman would approve of the scientific validity, but on Thursday's show after the 4 o'clock news we will be blindfolding me in studio and one by one bring in various co-workers. I won't know who's in the room, and they will be given a piece of paper with just a few words on it to read to me. My job will be to see if I know who they are.
I will update this post with our ridiculous findings on this most ridiculous disorder after we are done.
It's now behind us, the great voice test of 2018. It turns out I had only a 28% success rate, which means a 72% failure rate. I sat blindfolded as we brought in Mystery Co-workers #1 though #7. Here's how it broke down.
Mystery voice #1 was actually news anchor Jen Ursillo but I thought it was our new Program Director/Brand Manager Anne Gress. FAIL
Mystery voice #2 was actually Sergio Bichao from our digital department but I couldn't place him at all. I thought it was Multi-Media Producer Dan Tantillo. FAIL
Mystery voice #3 was actually Daniella Berson and this was the first one I got right! WIN
Mystery voice #4 was actually Joe Cutter and I nailed it! Then again I've known Joe since 1994. I better not have failed this one. WIN
Mystery voice #5 was actually Business Manager Karen Wood but I was convinced it was Account Executive Jennifer Duvall-Bernardino. FAIL
Mystery voice #6 was actually Anne Gress, our boss, but that's the one I thought was Jen Ursillo. FAIL
Mystery voice #7 was actually producer Dan Tantillo but I thought it was Tony from sales. FAIL
With a 72% failure rate I'm now more convinced than ever that I do indeed have phonagnosia!
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