Empty Nexter: Excuse me, what did you say?!

I'm listening

By Carrie Perrien Smith

It’s kind of funny frolicking through this third twenty years of my life with my partner in crime. I’m an old Gen X and he’s a young Baby Boomer. We’re sitting squarely in that time in our lives where we aren’t quite ready to admit we have a hearing problem but it’s apparent we listened to our music a little too loud back in the day.

First Hearing Dilemma: Sometimes Things Sound Alike

It’s a common belief that listening and asking questions to clarify understanding is necessary to communicate effectively. Like any couple, we blundered our way through many misunderstandings over the years because one didn’t clarify what the other thought she meant. We’ve only sort of mastered the process of listening and clarifying now that our hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, and not a minute too soon. Maybe you recognize these problems too.

The first problem: Things that rhyme.

Her: Would you grab the key?
Him: What? Who’s Mickey?
Her: The KEY! Grab the key!
Him: You’re mumbling.
Her: Mmm hhmmm.


Him: Did he say they better hurry up and score because he needs a nap?
Her: No dear. He said they’d better hurry up and score because it’s almost the HALF.
Him: Is there something wrong with the sound?
Her: I don’t know dear. Maybe it’s the surround-sound faking you out.
Him: Maybe you’re right. [Starts fiddling with the master controller to adjust the speakers]

Another problem: Words that sound alike but are spelled differently (grammar zealots call them homonyms).

Her: I’m getting you pictures for the gym for Christmas.
Him: [puzzled look] What am I going to do with pictures of JIM?
Her: The HOME GYM. Pictures for our home gym.

Some things sound alike and they aren’t homonyms.

Her: How are the Republican candidates doing?
Him [what she heard]: Did you see on the news that Texas Governor Rick Perry was playing hockey over the weekend and hit two black guys?
Her: What [leaning forward with baffled look]. Really? Man, that’s not going to be cool with the African American voters. How did he hit two black guys?
Him: Uh, no. He was playing hockey and got two BLACK EYES. He got hit in the nose!
Her: Oooohhhhh.


Her: Maybe David needs to go back and get a marketing degree.
Him: What’s a MARKING degree? Is that what Midgieboy (our overly territorial boy dog) has?
Her: A MARKETING degree!
Him: Maybe he’d do better with a MARKING DEGREE.
Her: [rolls her eyes] Goober.


Her: He says he drinks because he has arthritis in his hands.
Him: [furrowed eyebrows capping squinty face and wrinkled nose] What did you say?
Her: He says he drinks because he has arthritis in his HANDS.
Him: [big silly grin] Ooohhhh. I thought you said he drinks because he has arthritis in his PANTS.
Her:  [nose snort]

Second Hearing Dilemma: Is He Hard of Hearing or Just Hard of Listening?

We all seem to be close to someone who doesn’t always listen. As hearing ages, it is sometimes hard to discern whether someone is not listening or whether they truly cannot hear you.

This is the time when it comes in handy to recognize what is better left unsaid. Perhaps someone you love is the very last to admit that they are hard of hearing. In reality, they may be the last to know. It’s okay to candy coat the truth for awhile. Your loved one may believe that he or she has simply been conditioned to listening to louder sounds and your voice is far too quiet now. Maybe your voice is louder in your head than it is to those who have to listen to it. Or perhaps you really are mumbling [wink, wink].

Third Hearing Dilemma: “I Swear I Told You That”

You might know someone who swears they told you something but clearly they failed to allow the thought to pass over their lips. It was easy to blame missing their message on the craziness of a busy schedule and the chaos of a growing family. Perhaps you just didn’t hear it or forgot he told you. But once that family is grown, there’s less confusion at home and more time to concentrate. Now, it is obvious when your spouse didn’t really tell you something.

So What to Do?

We’re too young to show our faces at expos targeted at senior citizens where they have hearing screenings. It’s not quite bad enough to make an appointment with an audiologist. And it is possible that we just miss the message because we have too much going on in our lives and have too many priorities screaming at us. Denial isn’t really out of the question either.

But we can still hear the important things: babies crying, smoke alarms, and police car sirens. With that said, maybe we can just ponder it a bit longer, practice our communication skills, and enjoy a good belly laugh when life presents us with a funny misunderstanding.

Carrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Speckles, Snappy, Jazmin, and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, community activist, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

*Photo by Melvin Gall via Flickr