What? You know I can’t hear you


What? You know I can't hear you

In the last few years of my mother’s life, it became clear that she needed a hearing aid. No matter what you said to her, she responded with “what?”


“Hi, mom. Your hair looks nice.” “What?”


“I lost my job, and I live under the freeway now.” “What?”


“The house is on fire!” “What?”


“I think Congress is doing a great job.” “What?”


It didn’t matter if you told the truth or lied and said you thought Congress was more than a group of self-serving bootlickers, mother’s response was always the same. She knew she wasn’t hearing well, yet she resisted getting a hearing aid. The people around her had to repeat everything several times. The echo made people want to pull out their hair.


After months of reasoning and piles of hair all over the house (others, not hers), she agreed to see an audiologist and get fitted for a hearing aid. She wore the device for several days, and then began leaving it in the dresser drawer. The dresser began to hear everything that was said and eavesdropped on several conversations that were none of its business, and mother again started punctuating every statement and question with “what?”


I was visiting my brother and her when this happened. He was at work, so it fell to me to take mother back to the audiologist. Mother explained that the device didn’t fit properly, so the doctor fiddled and adjusted and asked several questions to make sure that it was comfortable. She was very patient with mother and didn’t rush her. Mother said yes to every question about how well it fit and we left.


On the way home, we carried on a normal conversation. And we had several days of echo-free talk. Then late one afternoon, I went into the kitchen to make dinner. Mother went to her room for a book, came back into the living room, and sat on the couch to read. The house had an open concept floor plan, so we could see one another. The first time I shut the cupboard door, she said, “What?”  I laughed and said, “I didn’t say anything.” She looked puzzled, so I repeated it. She sighed, put her book down, and said, “You know I can’t hear you.” I walked over, told her I hadn’t said a thing, and that I had just shut the cabinet door. I asked her where her hearing aid was. Of course I knew. I also knew that the dresser could now hear everything we said, so I listened patiently as she explained that the hearing aid felt uncomfortable.


I went back to the kitchen. A few minutes later, I shut another cabinet door and she hollered, “What?” Again, I had to walk over to her and explain that I was not speaking to her. I assured her that if I had anything to say, I would walk over  to tell her. She actually called out, “What?” one other time during that meal preparation. I have never cooked so quietly in my life.


At the meal, my brother and I asked her why she didn’t tell the audiologist that it still didn’t feel right.  She looked at us, incredulous that we would even ask such a question, and said, “I didn’t want to bother her.”


We laugh about it now. You don’t bother folks you hardly know. Bothering is for the ones you love, the ones who love you back. And now I miss all the bother that mother was.




17 thoughts on “What? You know I can’t hear you

  1. This rings true for me, as well. My future will certainly include hearing problems, as I come from a long line of “what ?” When I took my mom to the audiologist, the main problem was that her ears were plugged with wax. Very gross…..the audiologist we saw was also very patient and kind. It must be a job requirement.

  2. riatarded

    Awww *Honestly that’s all I can say after reading this post*
    It’s very touching and I love reading about your mother. May she rest in peace:)

  3. “Isn’t it funny how those annoying habits or quirks become the things we love and miss the most? ” I think we should all keep this in mind about our own quirks. 🙂

    Also, I’m bummed because I “followed” your blog a couple of weeks ago, but had not received it in my email. My friend AnnieAgain said she’s been reading your posts and really enjoying them so instead of waiting for something to appear in my email, I came to look. I’m learning (the hard way) that there are several themes that one has to use the widget follow button, not the menu follow button . . . so I’m trying again. 🙂

    • Some of us are going to leave our offspring a lot to write about. Thanks for following – I’ve had the same problem as you. Sometimes I click on the button on someone’s blog and sometimes I click the follow button on the bar above the blog. But not all of the blogs I follow appear under WordPress tab. I still haven’t figured it all out.

  4. WordPress messed my comment up (it’s been doing that a lot lately) I’ve just realised how bad that looks. It appears that I’m glad your mother’s dead D:!

    What a sad ending, I’m sorry she’s no longer here :< my grandmother eventually got a hearing aid and stuck to it once we convinced her. The batteries died and wee couldn't replace them for about a week which got pretty annoying. It is kind of funny though 😀

  5. My hubby recently got his hearing aids — he wears them when he has meetings, but not often when he’s home. I try to speak louder, but it just doesn’t feel very natural for me to shout at him…. When he can’t hear me, he tries to guess what I’ve said…. and of course, that leads to some merriment and puzzling looks. It’s kinda fun to play around with people who can’t hear.

    I miss my momma too… she had really good hearing, but couldn’t stand to see a bottle of wine that wasn’t empty…

    • My husband is reluctant to admit he needs his hearing checked. He’s been doing a lot of “whating” these days. Your momma sounds like she had very good vision as well as good hearing.

  6. This is the story of my mother only with her false teeth! Her bottoms were never comfortable and every time we went to the dentist she said they were fine. Then at home she would complain and take them out (gross!). The lesson I learned from that is DO ANYTHING TO MAKE SURE YOU KEEP ALL OF YOUR TEETH!

    Great post.

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