At the risk of plagiarizing William Shakespeare, whose relatives can’t take me to court because he wanted to kill all the lawyers, I implore friends, Romans, countrymen and anybody who is not on the phone: Lend me your ears.
I make this urgent plea because my wife, Sue, thinks I can’t hear. I say the same about her. It has, unfortunately, fallen on deaf ears.
So I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist to have the potatoes removed from my auditory canal and to find out if spouses have failure to communicate because they really ought to be in a hearing aid commercial.
I raised the subject with Sue - and had to repeat myself - after the following conversation:
Sue: “I was talking to myself.”
Later, we had this exchange:
Me: (No response)
Sue: “You don’t listen to a word I say.”
Me: “I thought you were talking to yourself.”
Sue: “I was talking to you.”
I don’t talk to myself, even though no one else, principally Sue, wants to hear what I have to say. And when we are watching TV and she has the remote, I frequently have to ask her to jack up the volume to a decibel level that is high enough to blow out the windows.
“You need the wax taken out of your ears,” said Sue, who suggested I go to the medical group where she had her own earwax removed.
A week later, as I sat in the office of otolaryngology, which I can’t pronounce and couldn’t spell without looking it up, nurse practitioner Toniann Savage said, “Sometimes I feel like a therapist for couples who can’t hear each other.”
“My wife’s hearing seems much better since you took the wax out of her ears,” I said. “Her only complaint is that she can now hear all of my stupid jokes.”
When Toniann pointed a light into my left ear, I asked, “Can you see all the way to the other side?”
“Very clearly,” she said with a smile.
Then she began to remove wax from both of my ears.
“You could cut the time in half if I were Vincent van Gogh,” I told her.
Toniann sighed and said, “I think your wife is just ignoring you.”
“It looks like I have quite a potato crop,” I said when Toniann showed me what she had removed.
“It’s not that bad,” she said. “By the way, did you recently get a haircut?”
“Last week,” I answered. “Why?”
“Because,” said Toniann, “you have two hairs in your left ear. The next time you get a haircut, you should ask the barber to put cotton in your ears.”
“Then I really won’t be able to hear,” I said.
After Toniann had finished, she introduced me to Deena Palumbo, a doctor of audiology, who would be giving me a hearing test.
“My wife passed the test and says she can now hear all of my stupid jokes,” I said.
“Are you getting a divorce?” Deena asked.
“No,” I replied. “I wouldn’t hear of it.”
For my test, I sat in a soundproof booth and put on a pair of earphones, through which Deena, who was just outside, sent a series of words and beeps at different decibels. I had to tell her what I was hearing.
“You scored very well,” Deena said afterward. “You can definitely hear your wife, but if you don’t want to tell her the test results, it will be our secret.”
“How is your hearing?” I asked.
“Pristine,” Deena said proudly. “I can hear everything my husband and kids say. But if I diagnose a patient with hearing loss, the advice I give is to call the spouse’s name before you say something. If you have to say, ‘What?’ three times, it’s like baseball: You’ve struck out.”
When I got home, Sue asked, “How did you do?”
I cupped my hand to my ear and said, “What?”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via jerryzezima.blogspot.com.