Ask Dr. Abonso
9. My Husband Hears Fine Whenever He Wants To, But He Doesn't Want To Very Often. Would Hearing Aids Help?

Dr. Abonso: Yes.

Suspicious Consumer: Yes? Is that all, just, "Yes?" Normally you're full of information; almost garrulous.

Dr. Abonso: Tsk, tsk. Do you recall the conversation I had with your husband about why you couldn't hear at noisy parties (Dr. Abonso#3)?

Suspicious Consumer: Yes, you even discussed my drinking habits at parties.

Dr. Abonso: Only in jest. But your husband didn't mention that he had any hearing problems.

Suspicious Consumer: No, he says he doesn't. If he wants to hear he can hear fine.

Dr. Abonso: My guess is that's only partly true. Was he exposed to a lot of noise at one time?

Suspicious Consumer: He flew B-25's and other planes in the war, over 200 missions.

Dr. Abonso: Good grief, no wonder! Most of those guys have perfectly normal hearing for low-pitched sounds but an enormous loss for high-pitched speech sounds such as "f" and "s."

Suspicious Consumer: Does that explain how he can hear when he wants to?

Dr. Abonso: You may recall from my conversation with your husband that you only need to hear 25% of the speech sounds in order to understand speech. You can get by when 75% of the sound is inaudible.

Suspicious Consumer: I guess I remember.

Dr. Abonso: I didn't mention how much effort that takes. The brain is an amazing thing. Did you know that your brain consumes enough power to light a 20-watt light bulb, even more when we force it to work hard? Pressed to the limits it can perform unbelievable tasks. But most of us tire quickly when we do that.

Suspicious Consumer: The older ones?

Dr. Abonso: The point is, the man who can "hear when he wants to" is probably using most of his available brain-power on hearing. It is not likely he will want to exert that much effort very long.

Suspicious Consumer: So you think my husband hears by really straining and simply quits trying after a while?

Dr. Abonso: Yes. Hearing aids would probably make 70-90% of the speech sounds audible, reducing the power drain on his brain. With some brain-power left over, he'd be more likely to enjoy relaxed conversation. That extra brain-power was put there for enjoying other people, not for deciphering chopped up speech code.

Suspicious Consumer: If he gets hearing aids, will my husband pay more attention to what I say?

Dr. Abonso: Unless you're unfriendly, I'd guess yes.

Suspicious Consumer: Not a chance; I really like the guy.

Dr. Abonso: You haven't told me how your own hearing aids have worked out at parties.

Suspicious Consumer: Fortunately, you warned me that hearing aids that restored missing speech sounds would help me hear better in noise, but that I would also hear more noise. That was certainly true! Even after 3 months, I'm still getting used to the hearing aids. But you were right about hearing better in noise; I now have less trouble understanding conversations at parties.

Dr. Abonso: I like being right. Usually am, of course. How are you doing with your new aids overall?

Suspicious Consumer: Frankly, I wish I didn't need them. They're a nuisance just like my glasses. But I hear so much better and see so much better that I'm content with the nuisances.

Dr. Abonso: Another several months and you probably won't notice them as much.

© 1993

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