Ever since I gave up the hearing in my left ear (the 2005 price of curing an inner ear disorder that produced debilitating attacks of vertigo), I've heard music differently. It's not just that I'm no longer stereo, a hearing difference I don't really perceive. Some music sounds flatter than I recall, and lyrics are harder for me to make out, but the fact that all sound now comes to me from the right is a fact I have to take in intellectually, not one I actually experience.
The real difference is that when I listen to music in my car I now hear the harmony rather than the melody. This has something to do, I presume, with how the speakers in my car work. The difference is especially pronounced when I'm in the passenger seat. On our recent trip to Arizona, a few times I couldn't tell what song we were listening to until we got to the chorus - even when the songs were ones I've known by heart since I was in college.
I love to sing; I was a singer in high school and I'm an alto. This hearing anomaly would have come in mighty handy back then as I, along with all the other altos, struggled to sing harmony while high-pitched sopranos shrieked well-known melodies in our ears. Now, in my car, I happily belt the harmony, almost undistracted by the melody when I'm driving and completely undistracted by it when I'm in the front passenger seat. It's wonderful. Harmonies are so interesting and unexpected; they have a minor-key sort of mystery to them that I've always enjoyed, but never found easy to hear and follow the way I do now.
Could I have taught myself to hear this selectively before it was my only option? I suppose so. Had I continued to take voice lessons or tried to sing professionally in some way, I would have had to become a more reliable alto - not one who, like many, occasionally and furtively slipped into singing the melody. But tuning out the melody and singing a harmonious, but different tune is hard, especially when the melody is one you know and like. Literally and metaphorically speaking. How cool that a so-called disability has given me an ability I lacked. Makes me wonder what other skills I could develop by experiencing things differently.