What's that, Ethel? Speak up, I can't hear you.

You know how people describe sounds only a dog can hear, like police whistles?  Well, at our house, the dogs can’t even hear the voices of my husband Eric and my step-daughter Liz.  Seriously.  Even the Bionic Woman could not hear them, y’all.  I call them the Whispering Hutchins.

At first, I thought it was just me.  Worse, I thought they only whispered around me.  Did they secretly mock my distraught face and complete lack of comprehension?  “Ha, she has no idea what we’re saying,” might they say, and slap a conspiratorial high five.  Surely not?  It reminded me of a nasty little game my ex-husband used to play, a nasty and immature game.  He would mumble inaudibly to someone, and when they asked him to repeat himself, he would hyper-enunciate in a bellow, “DOES SUCKING D*CKS MAKE YOU DEAF?!?!?”  The listener usually felt pretty stupid, if not offended.  Oh, he got laughs, but…uncomfortable ones.  With my husband and step-daughter, I felt stupid at best and like the butt of a bad joke at worst.

But I can hear my husband if it is just the two of us nose to nose.  He thinks I crave intimacy when I rub my face against his.  Hell, all I want is to understand one damn thing he’s saying.  And I can’t rub noses with Liz, so while I have found a way to hear Eric, I’m out of luck with that girl.

For several years, I would say one of a couple of things in the wake of the “hrmplkeja mhrisyaoiijh” under their breath:

  • What?
  • Can you repeat that?
  • I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you.

It annoyed me to say it, and I suspected it annoyed them worse to hear it and repeat every single word to me.  Hence, my conclusion that, in order for them to endure this, years on end, it had to be intentional.

Except that I’ve noticed no one else can hear them either, and I can’t tell you how much it delights me when someone like my mom will ask me if I understand a word either of them are saying, as she smiles brightly and nods with a blank look in her eyes.  I nod sympathetically when Liz’s friend confides he can’t hear her most of the time.  I chortle when Eric’s co-workers bemoan the same issue.  I am positively giddy when the waiter at the Flying Dutchman in Kemah asks Liz to repeat her order three times, and then looks up blankly until one of us takes pity and “translates” it for him.

It’s not just me.

Still, I worried.  The “what, huh?” repetitions weighed on me.  I felt guilty.

I gave up.  I quit asking for do-overs.  I reasoned that if the issue bore repeating or explanation, they’d find a way to get their point across.  If I couldn’t understand them, I smiled and ignored them.

Well, Eric didn’t like this solution.  Liz, a teenager, didn’t notice.  But Eric did.  We went back to the game of say it-ask for a repeat-say it again.  But I’d played one too many hands of this game, and it was time for a big change or 52 card pick up.

So, I got my &&*)&*(&%#$% hearing checked.  First, I did a number of different types of hearing tests online.  Check some of them out, here.  Next, I evaluated my ability to hear others.  I spent a few weeks writing down any time I could not hear people well enough to understand them, other than the Whispering Hutchins.  (Nada, folks, nada)  Then, I conducted an official test with my primary care physician.  And what did she say?

She said my hearing was completely normal.  That it’s not me.  No problems at all.

She’s wrong though.

I do have hearing problems.

TWO OF THEM.  And there ain’t no hearing aid, bull horn to the ears, or cattle prod to the behind that will solve them.


But I love them anyway.  And I’m getting a whole lot better at reading lips.  In fact, I think I can read Eric’s now…


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