Say That Again!
“What did you say?” “Could you repeat that, please?” and “What was that?” are questions that I asked all too frequently! Obviously, it was due to my husband’s mumbling! Others mumbled too! It’s true. What else could it be? It was either that everyone started mumbling for some reason OR I started tuning them out, selectively hearing only what I wanted to hear.
In all truthfulness, however, I did recognize that my requests for repetition extended into all areas of my life. Conversations among friends became increasingly difficult to follow, especially in a crowded room or restaurant. I frequently misheard words and, out of embarrassment, I wouldn’t respond until directly addressed. I cranked up the sound on my car radio and dialogues between characters on television were unintelligible. I’d increase the volume to a level where I could hear clearly, but that only elicited more comments from my husband that I “was losing it,” so I resorted to watching TV, straining to follow the plot.
Finally, I’d had enough.
“That’s it!” I said defensively, following one more evening of battling the volume on the TV remote control. “I’ll go have my hearing tested! Then you’ll see! The doctor will say that I’m just fine and that you mumble!”
The very next week, I sat inside a soundproof chamber at the audiologist’s office, a set of headphones perched on my head, a button in my hand to press each time I heard a tone. I wondered how long I would have to wait before the doctor started the test. Suddenly a faint beep sounded in my right ear. PUSH. Then a slightly louder beep. PUSH. And louder and louder, each time receiving an immediate PUSH on the button. Another long lapse caused me to wonder why the doctor stopped testing me, but then a faint honk sounded in my right ear. PUSH! Then another and another and another in increasing intensity, again receiving a PUSH response from me.
My confidence grew as the routine repeated itself in my left ear with not as big of a lapse in time between beeps and honks.
“Boy, oh boy!” I thought, “I’m acing this test! I can’t WAIT to get home and report my success!”
The doctor opened the chamber door and invited me to look at the test results with her.
“Here we have a graph showing your responses for your left ear and over here on this side is the graph for your right one,” she explained officiously. “As you can see, you have mild hearing loss in your left ear, but look at this big deep dip here. This indicates moderate loss in your right ear.”
“Excuse me? What? Say that again?!” I blurted out, unwilling to believe not only what I’d just heard but also what I was looking at directly in front of me.
“I’d like to fit you with hearing aids,” the doctor explained, “In fact, I can’t wait! You’re going to be amazed at what you will be hearing!”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!” I countered, “this can’t be right! You’re supposed to tell me that I’m just fine and that my husband mumbles! You’re also supposed to tell me that restaurants have really bad acoustics, and everybody has a hard time hearing in them, and you’re supposed to tell me that actors on TV shows don’t enunciate well and that everybody has to turn up the volume! What about all the freeway sounds? Huh? What about THAT? THAT’s why I have to have the radio volume up so high! Trucks are loud, you know! So are cars! And MOTORCYCLES? Fuggedaboutit!”
I was shocked! Hearing Aids? Those are for OLD PEOPLE! My mind flashed back to the brochure I’d read in the waiting room: Ten Signs of Hearing Loss. I’d glanced at it, quickly identifying 7 symptoms I had in common, but dismissing the possibility that I really DID have hearing loss. “Dizziness,” Nope. “Headaches,” Nope. “Chronic ear infections and/or other trauma to the ears,” Nope. “Complaining that people mumble.” Um . . . o.k., yes, sometimes. “Withdrawing from conversations due to inability to follow,” Um . . . maybe . . . sometimes. “Needing to turn up the volume on televisions and radios,” Yes, but only when they’re mumbling or when there’s traffic. “Asking people to repeat themselves,” Uh . . . yes, but only when I’m not really paying attention. “Trouble hearing consonants,” No, not very often . . . maybe sometimes, and only when people don’t enunciate very well. “Avoidance of social settings,” Yes, but only when I don’t really want to go.
“Could the doctor actually be RIGHT?” I wondered. “<GASP!> My waiting for the hearing test to begin wasn’t me WAITING!!! The sounds were there! I just didn’t hear them!!! Oh my gosh! Carl is going to LOVE this!”
“Hang on just a tiny little second, doctor,” I began, “I’ve been telling my husband for over six months now that he mumbles! He’s going to LOVE this diagnosis!”
“Well,” she offered, trying somewhat unsuccessfully to contain her amusement, “you could always follow the ‘what happens at the audiologist’s STAYS at the audiologist’s’ rule.”
“Ya,” I answered dejectedly, “I’ve already thought of that, but he knows I’m here! He’s going to ask all about this visit the second I walk through the door!”
“You’ll be just fine,” the doctor said, trying her best to console the unconsolable, “people are fitted for eyeglasses every day and no one thinks twice about that, do they?” It’s the same with hearing aids! You will really like them, trust me! I can’t wait for you to hear what you’ve been missing!”
And with that, she pulled a brand-new set of devices out of a box, programmed the right one, then the left, and helped me insert them in my ears.
“There,” she said, “I’m speaking to you in a sort of loud whisper so you can get used to the hearing aids.”
“WHOA! A ‘whisper?’” I thought, “it sounds like she’s speaking at a normal level!”
EVERYTHING sounded so fresh and crisp! I couldn’t believe my ears! Confirming my follow-up appointment for the next week, I headed for home, aware of more sounds than I’d heard on my way IN for the hearing test! The bell announcing the elevator resonated all the way down the hallway. The turn indicator in my car clicked-clacked in a rhythm I didn’t recognize! Could it be that I’d only been hearing HALF of the click and not the clack? And the RADIO . . . it was too loud!! I quickly adjusted the volume to a more comfortable setting! I’d probably just accidentally brushed against the control knob, inadvertently tuning it up too high as I got out of the car after I’d parked! An ambulance sped by blasting its siren so loud I’m sure it was heard all the way to Glendale . . . maybe even Studio City!
I tried to sneak into the house undetected, but the key turning in the lock clicked so loud that it alerted the dog AND Carl.
“You’re home!” welcomed Carl, “How’d your hearing test go?”
I didn’t know whether to lie and follow the doctor’s suggestion about “what happens at the audiologist’s STAYS at the audiologist’s” or come clean and tell the truth. I decided to go with ambiguous.
“Fine,” I said, not intending to explain further.
“Well . . . .,” Carl pushed, “’Fine’ doesn’t tell me anything! Do I mumble or don’t I?”
“A veritable gift from Heaven!” I thought.
“You mumble,” I said.
“Oh, c’mon,” he urged, “what’d the doctor say?”
“Ugh! I guess I’d better tell him,” I decided, “he’s going to see the credit card charge for the hearing aids, so he’s going to find out anyway!”
“The doctor said that . . . .,” I stammered, trying to soften the results and reduce the amount of teasing I’d get, “she said that I have mild hearing loss in my left ear and just a wee bit more in my right.”
“And . . . ,” Carl urged.
“And . . . and . . . and she fitted me for hearing aids,” I finished, running all the words together.
“HEARING AIDS you say? YOU NEED HEARING AIDS? You mean to tell me I DON’T MUMBLE AFTER ALL?” asked Carl with absolute delight and smiling from ear to ear.
I didn’t SAY you don’t mumble, because you do!” I said, “but . . . well . . . you wouldn’t make fun of someone who needs glasses, would you? So, just because I have a bit of hearing loss shouldn’t give you carte blanche to make fun of me!”
“I’m not making fun of you, Honey,” he said, still thoroughly enjoying himself, “EVERYBODY gets old. It’s just one of those things!”
I was atypically quiet as the evening continued. I was still reeling from the fact that I’d basically flunked the hearing test. Never in a million years did I think I’d exit that doctor’s appointment with less than a clean bill of hearing health much less a set of hearing aids! A wave of melancholy crashed through my body with the force of a 12-point tsunami!
“Oh my gosh! I’m playing The End Game! My Life is on the Back Nine! I’d better get one of those ‘I’m Dead, Now What?’ books for my kids for Christmas!”
“You know,” Carl’s words jolted me from my pity party nightmare, “it makes sense that you thought I mumbled! When we’re in the family room, I always sit here on your right, and you said that you’re right ear is your BAD one, correct?”
“Oh, shut up!” I thought.
“I guess,” I said, not wanting to talk.
“Then,” he continued, like an annoying little brother, pestering and pestering until you want to swat him, “I think we should switch positions! I’ll sit in YOUR chair and you move over here into THIS one! It’ll be O.K., you’ll see!”
“I’m staying right here,” I said firmly, “You’ve already ruined one ear. I’m not going to give you the opportunity to ruin the only good one I have left!”
Still struggling with the doctor’s diagnosis, I sent a text message to a friend who has hearing aids herself:
“Finally pulled the trigger and went for a hearing test,” I typed, “turns out I need hearing aids! I think it’s a misdiagnosis, tho, cuz Carl really does mumble!”
A series of emoticons buzzed her response . . . surprise, laughter, shock, laughter again, crying, angry and eyeroll . . . “Of COURSE he does!” it read, “BOTH our husbands talk from inside the closet!”
“Boy! You can say THAT again!” I smiled.