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Huh? What Was That?

January 24, 2020

A man was worried about his wife’s declining hearing. So, he decided to do a test. He had his wife stand on one side of the living room facing the wall. He then stood on the other side of the room.

“Can you hear me?”

No response. He walked to the middle of the room.

“Can you hear me, now?”

Still no response. So, he walked until he was directly behind her.

“Can you hear me, now?”

“For the third time, YES!”

My daughter was home from college over the Christmas break. I needed to ask her a question so I knocked on her bedroom door.

“Hey, do you have a minute?”

I knew she was in her room, but she didn’t answer me. I knocked again.

“Hey, I need to ask you a question.”

Still no answer. Like many young people her age, she owns a pair of Apple air pods. I knocked a third time. Perhaps a little more strongly this time.

Finally, she opened her door. Sure enough, she was wearing the white air pods.

“Still a house rule. Only one ear bud in at a time.

I wasn’t happy. I knew she wasn’t happy. But, I was wrong about why she was unhappy. My lovely wife explained it to me later.

“She answered you all three times.”

Oops.

Perhaps time to get my hearing checked. I don’t think I’m old. But, I do have 13 children and six grandchildren. Grandparents are old. . .sometimes.

I went to the hearing doctor today.

What brought you in today?

Sorry, what was that?

No, that’s not how the interview started. But, it might as well have.

Well, it seems like people are mumblings more.

Do you turn the TV up loader than your family likes?

We turn on closed captions by default. But, if the CC is off, yeah, I have trouble hearing it. Especially in a noisy environment.

So, I got to spend a time in “over-sized refrigerator” listening to beeps and whispered words like,

baseball
turkey dinner
face to face
enterprise

The beeps and words were in my right ear and then in my left ear.

It’s strange being in a soundproof box. You cannot hear anything outside of box. It’s amazing how much ambient noise we hear on a daily basis. Cars going by on the street. Heating fans kicking on and off. Heels clicking on hardwood floor. Children laughing down the block.

It’s called white noise. Background noise that is so pervasive we don’t even recognize it anymore. . .until it’s gone.

Sitting in the booth, I could hear my breathing. It was really loud. In fact, it was the loudest thing in the booth. I moved my arm and the sound of my sweatshirt rubbing against itself drowned out the rhythmic cacophony of air moving in and out of my lungs. (Okay, it was my nose. I was hearing the air in my nose, but I’m trying for some literary prose here!)

The voice of the doctor administering the test was a jolt through the headphones I was wearing.

Okay, Rodney, I think we got everything we need. I’ll let you out now.

In the end, my hearing graph looked like this.

The grey area is the area of human speech. My hearing is repreented by the red and blue lines. Anything above 90dB is considered deaf. Anything below 20bB is normal. As you can see the only frequency that I have any detectable hearing loss is in the 4kHz range.

Did you ever shoot guns?

Excuse me?

Target shooting, that sort of thing? Gunshots typically are in the 4kHz range.

Not really. The only time I’ve been shooting we used noise cancelling headphones.

So, in the end, the doctor told me, I didn’t need hearing aids. If my hearing has been worse in the last few years it’s what happens as we get older.

In fact, being able to hear down to 5dB, as I can in the 500Hz and 3kHz, is considered exceptional hearing.

I discussed the results with my wonderful wife when I got home.

The doctor said there’s nothing wrong with my hearing.

Well, that’s unfortunate.

What do you mean?

Well, if there’s nothing wrong with your hearing that can only mean one thing?

What?

It means all those times you claimed you didn’t hear me, you must have been ignoring me.

She was kidding. . .I hope.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

3 Comments
  1. ‘sounds’ similar to what we’ve been observing, where the sound capture part works well, and the interface to the brain can handle transmitting when the sounds are single tasked with breaks in between, but that transmittal parts break down in the filtering jobs when used for too much multitasking. The current issue of Popular Science is on the topic and my current reading.

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