WHAT PAGE ARE WE ON?
Hearing loss among older people is as common as fireworks on the 4th of July. One in three people over the age of 65 have a hearing loss. At age 75, the ratio increases to two out of three. Typically the older among us refuse to believe that we do not hear as well as when we were younger.
I knew the time would come when I would have an age-related hearing loss. My mother and grandmother both had presbycusis which is the technical term. Since I am a retired speech/language pathologist, the loss of hearing in certain situations and frequencies does not come as a great shock.
The biggest adaptation for me is hearing (and understanding) people who speak rapidly, quietly, and imprecisely. Speaking skills appear to have gone by the wayside as part of a basic education. I think younger people in general do not think about their delivery. One must look at the listener, as well as speak clearly and project
one's voice outward.
I often must ask a person seated next to me in choir practice, "what page are we on?" This choir director, though talented and kind, did not realize that most singers over the age of 65 may have difficulty discerning a page number or song name among all the questions, conversation, and instructions that are swirling around and disappearing towards a high ceiling. And he does not use visual cues.
So case in point: I was called out for "talking" when I asked my seatmate, "what page?" He noticed my "talking" because someone near me said a loud "shh!" She thought I was engaged in "chit chat." Well, obviously, she had trouble hearing too. Hah! And then there are the singers who don't ask. I took umbrage at being singled out. I was not the only one murmuring at times. I told the conductor that, “sometimes I can't hear you." He seemed surprised that he had forgotten the common issue of hearing problems, especially in a room with bad acoustics and older singers.
I felt hurt and misunderstood. Of course, no one came to my defense, as usually happens, especially in this case. No senior willingly admits that they have yet another problem. I am not a bumbling confused individual. But hearing is frequently misinterpreted as senility. It's difficult for me to hear sometimes. (I am going for another Audiological Evaluation soon.)
Since I was in the speech "business," I am not ashamed or frightened of hearing loss. I have been tested in the past and did not qualify for a hearing aid. I am not sure if a hearing aid would help in the situation I related. Hearing aids amplify all sound but do not discern between background and foreground noise. I will obtain an aid when it is recommended by a professional.
Fortunately, this director made a point to speak with me and clear up the misunderstandings. I told him that I do not like bothering the entire group, raising my hand frequently to ask about a page or measure number in a score, like a child in a class who must repeatedly ask for clarification. Peers will start to laugh. Isn't it better to whisper, "what page?" I could have ignored the whole drama. The conductor was talking to my seatmate who had answered my question. I was not going to let her be singled out either.
But how often is this scenario played out in daily life? Too often. Immediately younger individuals scoff at repeating themselves or regard the senior as clueless or confused. It is completely normal for hearing acuity to diminish as one ages.
©Karen Levi 2023