Some of you older men may have a difficulty similar to one that I face at home when it comes to communicating with the Little Missus, and since May is among other things, “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” I think it’s a very good time to just lay the cards on the table: My better-half does not speak clearly. I know it for a fact because half the time I can’t understand a word she is saying.
Part of the problem is that her voice is quiet (generally) and higher than a man’s of course, but then I truly have to say she does not enunciate precisely. I can say that unequivocally because I was a speech major in college, and my sister, a retired speech and hearing therapist. Therefore, you know right away that I know what I am talking about when it comes to lips and ears.
My problem exists whether we are in the car driving somewhere, or seated next to one another in the living room reading or watching TV, or even across from one another at the dinner table. This is troubling for both of us, of course, because I have to constantly ask her to repeat herself, which is aggravating for her, and of course, exasperating for me. It results often in our not speaking to one another for the rest of the evening.
So, during my own annual check-up, I asked our family doctor about it, and he gave me some advice that I will now share with you free of charge, here and now. No, please. My treat. It’s the least I can do for my fellow man.
“Doc” told me that he would be happy to address the issue with my better- half during her next appointment and promised not to tell her that I squealed on her. Meantime, he suggested a simple test designed to tell how serious her auditory weakness is. “Oh, it’s weak,” I told him. Ignoring that, he said: “Begin by asking her a question from as far away as the bedroom next time she is preparing dinner in the kitchen.
For instance, call out to her and ask what she’s cooking for dinner, and be sure you say it nice and loud and very clearly.” Then, he added, “if she doesn’t answer, move closer … down the hall … and ask again. Loudly and clearly. If that doesn’t produce an answer then move closer, and continue to ask her each time you move closer to the kitchen.” Eventually she’ll hear you, he told me; then you can let me know just how far away you were at the time. That will help me make a good diagnosis. “Got it?” Yep.
Well, I did just as the doctor ordered, and by about the fourth or fifth time calling out to her, I had worked my way all the way into the kitchen and was actually standing right behind her when I implored sweetly, one more time, but not so loudly and clearly as before: “What’s for dinner, honey?” Well, she wiped her hands on her apron, turned and looked at me with that look … you know the look … and said rather loudly and clearly: “FOR THE SIXTH TIME …CHICKEN!”
I’ve thought about that little kitchen conversation for several days now, and you know what? Even though I’ve refused her suggestions in the past, the next time one of those hearing aid ads come on television, I may just call.
Closing note: May really is “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” sponsored by the American Speech-Language Association. Good folks all. I’ve been told it’s also “Old Joke Month.” Really old. One’s you’ve heard before.
Mel Grossman is a local resident and guest columnist.