Say What?

My hearing isn’t what it used to be. In ideal circumstances it’s still plenty good enough; I tend to like the TV volume a bit lower than my sweetie, for instance.

Add background noise and that changes in a hurry. My ability to filter noise from signal was never that good, I think (recalling people having conversations with bursts of static on their CB radios), but thirty-five years of rock and roll and twenty-five years of highway driving with the top down have taken their toll. Now when my sweetie is by the sink with the tap running I’m lucky if I can tell she’s speaking at all. Forget about understanding her words.

Recently I was on an airplane and every time I tried to speak with the attendant I had to repeat myself. I could understand her, but she couldn’t understand me. The difference? I was wearing noise-canceling headphones. Even with the big cans over my ears I could hear her much more easily, and so naturally I responded in a lower voice than necessary. A nice reversal of the person-with-headpohones-on-talking-loudly joke.

If I wore those big-ass headphones around the house, I’d probably miss fewer things that my sweetie said. I’d hear more while driving as well, though wearing those things would undoubtedly get me pulled over.

What I need, then, are nice little inserts like a hearing aid, but while hearing aids amplify the signal, these would simply reduce the noise. My hearing without noise is plenty good enough, thank you.

I mentioned in an episode a while back that if I ran an airline, I’d have all my on-aircraft personnel fitted for items like this, both for their health and for more efficient service on-plane. So this isn’t a brand-spanking-new idea. I just can’t find a product that actually does this. I don’t even think this is a get-poor-quick scheme. I suspect the pattern of my hearing degradation is pretty dang typical, and all the technology already exists to make these things. The market could potentially be huge.

So, someone make me my earplugs already!

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7 thoughts on “Say What?

  1. My hearing loss probably mostly came from power tools, and is worst in my right ear, in the frequency range of Carol Anne’s voice and worst for consonant sounds (B vs. P, etc.). And my hearing isn’t so bad for simple acuity but I also have huge trouble with lots of distracting noises; a big, acoustically live, echoing room full of people is hell for me.

  2. Context is important to me; I can often make sense of what people are saying when I tune carefully into a conversation, but sometimes lose part or most of the first few words or phrases that someone says to me in a noisy area. I’m probably doing a lot of re-constructing or re-interpreting what people say to me in order to figure out just what they said.

  3. Of all the employees at the nursery, they put the grizzled punk-polkahead in charge of fountain setup and maintenance. This means I spend a certain amount of time playing around, and with, running water, and leads to exchanges like this:

    (Sound of running water. I notice a co-worker miming talking.)
    Me: “What?”
    (Sound of running water. I continue to notice a co-worker miming talking, now with added gesticulation.)
    Me: “What?”
    (Continued sound of running water. I begin to notice an annoyed expression on the face of my still-gesticulating co-worker, now miming yelling.)
    Me: “What? I can’t hear you over the…”
    Co-worker (over walkie talkie, just barely comprehensible over sound of running water): “Can’t you hear the phone ringing?”

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