Not Deaf, But My Hearing Has Changed

hard of hearing manFor many years I used to grumble about judges who were so insistent about absolute silence in their courtroom. I'm not talking about talking during an opponent's closing argument to the jury -- I could always understand getting riled up about that -- but, you know, on the morning motion call, when relatively routine, mundane business is being transacted before the bench and the room is chock full of lawyers trying to streamline their pending appearance. You get a crowded courtroom full of lawyers whispering, "Yes, I know I owe you written discovery. Can you give me 28 days?" or "The doctor's on vacation and we can't schedule her deposition until a week from Monday when she returns," and the buzz can get rather, well, buzzy.

But no one person is being intentionally disruptive; everyone is trying to be as quiet as possible and the parties the judge actually needs to hear are right in front of the bench. So I used to take umbrage when the learned judge would "shush" the room, or ask the deputy to do so. What's the matter with the judge? I'd think to myself. Is the judge so unable to focus that he or she can't hear the persons standing right there?

But now, finally, I understand: The answer is yes, the judge is having trouble focusing on the parties in front of the bench when the room gets too loud -- not because of hard of hearing manADHD but because the judge literally cannot focus on the conversation in front of him or her when there's too much ambient noise.

It's happened to me.

In a restaurant, or at a social function, I can't hear the person right next to me because I hear too much of the the noise around me. I'm not deaf, but I seem to have lost the ability to zoom in on the sounds I want to hear and exclude the rest. It was always the case that, in a crowded bar, if the band was too loud, I'd have trouble picking up conversation around me. But that was long, long ago and everyone has trouble hearing beyond a certain ambient noise threshold. It's just that, as I've aged, that threshold has clearly been lowered.

Long Suffering Spouse would disagree, of course. She thinks I'm deaf as a post. But if she's saying something in front of me and the TV is between us -- or sometimes even with the radio too close to my ears behind me -- I can't pick up what she says.

Of course, sometimes I wasn't listening because I was watching the TV or listening to the radio and because sometimes Long Suffering Spouse talks to herself as she gets things organized. I can't always tell the difference when she stops talking to herself and starts talking to me. But I sure do hear about it.


Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.

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