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On the sounds of silence

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I was reading an article the other day in the newspaper titled, "The Sounds of Silence." The author was describing the need to wear a hearing aid, but like his grandpa, he soon discovered that the world's idle chatter is sometimes best left unheard. He describes his grandfather's hearing aid as coming out of his ear like a beige mushroom and it was attached to a receiver as big as an old walkman. If his grandfather was interested in your conversation, he fiddled constantly with the receiver, letting everyone know he was tuning them in, and if he wasn't interested, he would just shut it off -- click -- and sit back with a smug little smile.

It reminded me of my dad, who in his later years, when he was unable to hear what was being said, would suggest that our family mumbled a lot and that was why he couldn't catch the coversation. Most likely, a lifetime of being on the farm riding tractors and operating machinery had contributed to his hearing loss, which he continued to deny in spite of growing evidence.

Since my dad sometimes helped my uncle in the funeral home business, we had a bell installed on the telephone that rang outside on each incoming call. One afternoon, the entire family was raking leaves and picking up the front yard when the bell started ringing. Everyone turned expectantly, looking around, and there was dad continuing his work in the yard as if nothing had happened. By then we were all staring at him. He looked up as if to say, "What?" The evidence of his hearing loss was on display for all to see. To the end of his days, he never did get a hearing aid in spite of us kidding him about it. We all wondered if the ringer on the phone was mumbling that afternoon in the front yard.

Dick Hedges
Fort Scott Community College