Patient Stories

Hearing Loss: The Difference Between Hearing and Understanding

Posted In: Ear conditions Jacque Digieso | December 6, 2013 | 11:46 AM

I just spent four lovely (and insightfully frustrating) weeks on a romantic vacation with a husband who insists he hears ‘just fine.’ Instead, it’s either that I mumble, there was too much noise in the room, I was walking away from him, or I didn’t really say what I said I said.

Joe and I are very happily married. This was our 45th anniversary trip. We have always been conversational…sharing little comments, describing our experiences of the day, analyzing family and friends, you know. There has never been a lull in our interactions. Being Italian, he manages to keep our communication lively and colorful! Lately, however, I’m afraid I find our conversations more stressful. He has had tinnitus for years but that didn’t usually result in confusion.

Our frequent disagreements about what was said, when I told him about events or what my expectations are for a situation, have become a concern. His inability to get the facts straight has become a growing topic of discussion over the last several years during which I’ve learned to repeat myself, speak louder than anyone else in the room and “go with the flow” rather than constantly correcting or explaining. Our children get a kick out of Mr. and Mrs. Magoo when they visit. But I find I’m working extra hard to be sure I have his full attention before I speak…and by that point I‘m *****d! Often he’ll say, “Well, you don’t have to yell!” To which I reply, “Apparently I do!”

However, this vacation has put a very fine point on our changing relationship. Without the distraction of our work and daily responsibilities, our new found awareness (actually, HIS awareness) was more humorous than conflicted.

It began, in earnest, early in the trip, when I responded to his offer to buy us a drink with “you pick; anything but a martini.” His smile was so big when he delivered the one drink I had clearly stated I didn‘t want.

Then he tried to convince me I had said I wanted one. When walking through the streets of Rhodes, Greece, I said, “I thought the bread we had a lunch was delicious.” He responded with “we haven’t seen Fred in years.” When counting the stops on the Rome subway, I said, “we have made three, Cavour is the next one.” He burst out laughing as if I had made a joke. When I asked what was so funny, he said “of course the next one is four, what else would it be?” The list goes on and on. We spent a lot of time laughing at the mistakes made as he interpreted what he thought he’d heard, and I ran interference for him when we were speaking with the local citizens whose accents made communication difficult for even the sharpest of ears.

He gets an annual physical every year and he always passes the test where you raise your hand corresponding to whichever side you hear the beep…that’s his proof that he can hear.

I think, after this trip, he realizes there’s a difference between hearing sounds and understanding sounds. New resolution? A trip to the specialist and an honest look at the problem and solution. I wonder if I can learn to utter single statements in a normal tone of voice again.

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