The challenges of aging ears

Courtesy of clker

Courtesy of clker

Disclaimer: For the sake of clarity, I am referring to my family and perhaps even myself although none of us will admit we can’t hear perfectly. This is not intended to represent people who are truly hearing challenged or any of their beliefs or behaviors.

Hearing issues run in my family. Despite the fact that ears get bigger as you grow older until you are capable of gaining altitude without the aid of a plane, they don’t seem to work as well.

My mother called it selective hearing but I think there may be some real medical issues there.

When we can’t quite hear what you say we smile a lot, shake our head to imply we are listening, and sometimes even cautiously respond. Perhaps the reply isn’t for the question asked but it’s a good answer nonetheless.

Sort of normal person: “Hi! I hear the world is ending!”

Hearing-challenged person in my family: Big smile maybe even a positive head shake.

Sort of normal person: “We will all die.”

Hearing-challenged person in my family: Another big smile, head shake and maybe even a “That’s good.” No sign of impending catastrophe.

Sort of normal person: *thinks* This is one weird dude.

We try to read lips or make assumptions. We hear the first part of the sentence but because people trail down at the end, we don’t hear the finish. So we do what kids do when they don’t have all the information. We make it up.

(Have you ever heard the story of birth from the perspective of a 5-year-old? Hilarious!)

It’s an unconscious thing. If I’m in a restaurant with a larger group, there are times I can’t hear across the table. If I have the gist of what’s going on, I can fill in the blanks. Maybe.

Or I can be way off. Like out in left field. Or maybe in another county.

A friend asked me if I’d like to join her. I heard the first part so I knew the topic but I thought she was asking me if it was open. I answered, “I don’t know.” Her look was priceless. It was a yes or no question. How could I not know if I wanted to join her?

After it rumbled through my cavernous brain I realized that she didn’t say what I thought she said (mostly ascertained from the gasps and giggles of the group). I swallowed my pride (that’s something we have a lot of despite the fact that we have no idea what you are talking about) and I asked her to repeat the question.

I said yes…to something.

I think I’m going to pick blueberries. Or maybe to a movie. Or maybe something else. In any case, it will be a surprise.

35 thoughts on “The challenges of aging ears

  1. Kate, my awesome sister lost her hearing in an accident ; she really feels out of things. I sent her e wonderful book “What did you say?” It gave her a big boost. A good friend of mine lost her hearing and has had cochlear implants in both ears. She gave me a message for my sis; “tell her that’s the best thing I ever did for myself…it gave me my life back”.
    Jane, my sister, had her first cochlear implant Monday. We are beyond thrilled.
    She and I laugh about our LOUD conversations because that’s better than crying on each other’s shoulders.
    It’s very personal and sensitive…one never knows how others feel.
    I so appreciate your thoughtful and oh so humorous post. Thanks! P.S.
    The book is written by Monique E. Hammond “What Did You Say?
    An unexpected Journey Into the World of Hearing Loss”. It helps, really it does.


    • I was thinking of you when I wrote this (not that it’s about you) and wanted to be sure it was targeted to normal aging issues that no one will admit to. My husband lost his hearing about the same time you did through an infection. Most of it came back but not all and it’s not the same. He has earphones for the TV because he has trouble with some programs. Restaurants are bad. I know how frustrating it was for me when I was working and couldn’t always hear the discussions. I can’t imagine how it is for you.


  2. Hilarious! 🙂 But true. 😦 It’s happening in my family too since I have to sit on my brother’s left side and he still nods and smiles a lot, and I am also translating what people say so my husband can make intelligent comments in company. My mom may have had the happiest solution. She just told people to “stop mumbling.” 🙂


    • Vanity, expense and the fact that sometime they don’t work all that well are three reasons why a lot of people don’t get them. I’m not quite there yet as I can hear well in a normal situation. Put me in a noisy room and all bets are off. Unfortunately hearing aids don’t work there either. They need to come up with some better technology! In the meantime I hope your sister doesn’t agree to anything too weird.


  3. Oh this is so true. My poor husband, after 40 years of being an active railroad worker, has so many hearing issues. He can hear, thankfully, but misses a lot when he isn’t paying attention. We have lots of stories that we think are funny and he doesn’t particularly appreciate. I think I have very good hearing until I try to watch television at my kids’ homes and have to ask them to turn it up! I hope your outing is great fun…wherever it is. 🙂


    • Sounds like my brother. He was a quality control engineer and was often in the noisy plant figuring out problems. Today people are a lot more conscious of the effects of continuous loud noises and there are laws. My brother doesn’t think those stories are funny either. No sense of humor!


  4. Last year my doctor said my hearing was fine. I think she meant, “… for your age.” My kids insist on talking softly and fast, and then they wonder why I can’t understand. I think for me the problem is a combination of my hearing getting worse and my brain getting slower. I agree with derrycats about the difficulty of having a conversation in a noisy restaurant. After a while I get tired of saying, “What?” I expect people get tired of hearing my ask.


    • I absolutely agree on the restaurants. I’ve blogged before about how difficult it is to hear when the new rage is to have high ceilings, no carpeting or window treatments to absorb sound. We have stopped going to a few because of that and tend to stay away from busy nights.


  5. I can hear ok…just can’t understand the words. Awful in public places. I smile and nod and hope for the best. Movies are a chore. Again I can hear but cannot understand. Maybe that is why I have started talking to myself.


  6. Lately I seem to have difficulty on the telephone. Speaking of hearing aides, what’s up with insurance not covering them? Do insurance companies think we don’t need to hear? Have you checked out the cost of hearing aides…very expensive!
    I hope what you said ‘yes’ to wasn’t ‘something else.’ 🙂


    • Sometimes I have a hard time on phones, especially cell phones. Sometimes in large crowds with background noise or sometimes people with accents! My brother has hearing aides and I couldn’t believe what they cost. On top of that, they need new batteries every few days and they don’t completely eliminate background noise. Aging isn’t for sissies or poor people.


  7. My dad’s family all mostly lost hearing once in their 90’s…smiling and nodding and talking really loud – you had to shout into phones so they could hear. It was easier to me to start writing letters again.
    It used to irritate me that my yakie sister-in-law kept forgetting my dad needed to sit against the wall at restaurants in order to hear conversation and tune out other noises – of course her husband, my brother, was pretty deaf by 60 – but I think he didn’t let her know…he just smiled and enjoyed the peace and quiet.


  8. Thanks for a fun post. Can’t wait to hear about “the surprise” . . . I hope you didn’t volunteer to muck out stalls at the local stables.

    My hearing is very good (so far) . . . I can hear BFF sigh from 3 rooms away, causing him to say, “How did you hear that?!” Mothers have eyes in the back of their head. I have ears in the back of mine.


  9. oooh, don’t get me started.

    Too late!

    Hubby and I and a friend were traveling to a mineral show. Friend sat in the backseat. We nattered away pretty much the entire journey. By we, I mean the two guys. They were up to their eyeballs in mineral talk. That’s fine. During a lull, I asked hubby a question. He didn’t say anything. From the backseat, friend says, “I think he’s got you on mute, Maggie.”


  10. Hate having dinner in loud restaurants these days…too hard to have any kind of conversation. And the volume at which my husband listens to tv would wake the dead. He tells me that the tv’s sound isn’t very good. Yah…


  11. My husband has difficulty hearing conversations at a normal decibel level – ergo, the tv volume could wake the dead… 😉 But this pales in comparison to his selective deafness – a condition I had previously only applied to my sons as teen-agers. Something tells me that in Andy’s case though, this is not ‘just a phase’…he enjoys it!


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