Hear, Hear


By Neil Offen

One of the signs of aging, in addition to getting older, is that parts of our bodies don’t work nearly as well as they used to. It’s possible, in fact, that some parts will even fall off occasionally, so watch where you step. But you may not have heard about all that because your hearing is also starting to go.

Diminished hearing, I have discovered, is particularly common with boomer couples, who, studies have shown, spend most of their time together either arguing about the time they argued about the movie they saw whose title they can’t remember with the actors they can’t recall or simply saying to each other, “What?”

The rest of the time they may be saying, “I told you not to speak to me when you’re in another room” even when they are in the same room. They also may occasionally note that they can’t hear each other when a) the water is running or b) when the water is not running.

If you are having hearing problems similar to these, whether you are a boomer or not, the easy solution, obviously, is to make believe you aren’t paying attention when someone is talking. This should not be difficult since you are most likely not paying attention when someone is talking, even more so if that someone is your spouse or partner or friend and is telling you once again the same story about who they met the other day at the supermarket.

Granted, this is more difficult to do in other situations, such as when you can’t hear the smoke alarm beeping that the bratwurst is on fire or when the cop is telling you to pull over and get out your license and registration. In general, though, when not hearing as well as you used to really starts to become a problem, you might consider the following strategies:

Avoid noisy places. This would include subways, airport runways, kindergarten classrooms, rocket launchpads and family reunions with older cousins who speak loudly because they haven’t quite figured out how to adjust their hearing aids and keep fiddling with them in the hope that they can get Tommy James and the Shondells on Sirius XM radio.

Look at the speaker. When someone else is talking, it’s customary, of course, to ignore them completely. But if that doesn’t work and they continue to speak, watch them intently until it is your chance to jump in and say, “What?”

Use closed captioning. When you watch TV or online videos, using closed captioning can help you focus on the difficulty you are having in seeing the captions rather than the difficulty you are having in hearing the dialogue.

If the captions are white on a white screen, or about 10 seconds behind what the actors are actually saying, you get extra focus points.

Read lips. This will probably be less successful if the person talking is wearing a mask. If that’s the case, just assume they are offering you money.

Get professional advice. Check in with your medical provider if your hearing loss continues to worsen. Explain your situation and only be concerned if your provider responds by saying, “What?”

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column will appear twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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