The Silence of the Lambs


There are two questions that each admit of only one possible answer; They are “Can you hear me?” and “Are you asleep?”  If someone can’t hear you they won’t answer – so the only possible reply is “yes”.  Likewise if someone is asleep they won’t answer so the only possible reply is “no.”

This happened to me recently. We’d had a meeting and a speaker and when I asked friends  if they’d enjoyed it, their replies were “she was probably an interesting speaker but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.”   and again “I couldn’t see the pictures on the computer screen from where I was sitting.”

Now I’m at the age where I know at least half my friends wear hearing aids. I suspect the rest have hearing aids that are hidden by their hair or  perhaps they should be wearing a hearing aid but are too proud to admit it.

It infuriates me that people who are otherwise not afraid to speak out, who will complain about poor service in a shop or write to the council about faulty pavements, won’t ask someone giving a talk to SPEAK UP, PLEASE, we can’t hear you. What they fail to realise is It’s actually a compliment to a speaker;  you are saying you want to hear their talk and are interested in what they are saying. In this day and age I can’t imagine anyone being offended at being asked to please speak a bit louder. Any speaker who is should probably not be giving a talk to the public.

I’m constantly amazed at people who sit patiently through a whole evening of inaudible words. Are they practising some weird form of penance or just blocking out the sound so they can indulge in a quiet mediation or even go to sleep? I’ve been told often enough by hearing aid wearers that there is a problem in a room full of people all talking at once. The different conversations cancel each other out and it’s nigh on impossible to hear any one of them. But when you have just one person addressing a group there shouldn’t be this effect.

I don’t consider myself particularly assertive or loud but I do try to let someone know if they can’t be heard. I have fond memories of a council meeting where the speaker could not be heard. We had arrived complete with a group of junior school kids – the topic under discussion was the possible closure of the local primary school – I knew the children wouldn’t sit through half an hour’s mumbling. So  I stood up and yelled from the back of the gallery that we couldn’t hear. It seemed to work.


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