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1135 Having Hearing Problems

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,135 – Having Hearing Problems.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,135. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

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On this episode, we’re going to listen to a dialogue between Bernadette and Claude about someone who has difficulty hearing. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Bernadette: Why are you mumbling?

Claude: I’m not. I said, “What’s wrong with your hearing?”

Bernadette: Nothing is wrong with my hearing. You just need to speak up.

Claude: I’m practically shouting. You need to see a doctor about your hearing loss.

Bernadette: I’m not hard of hearing. It’s probably just a buildup of earwax.

Claude: This is more serious than earwax. Do you hear ringing in your ears?

Bernadette: Not more than usual.

Claude: Meaning you usually hear ringing sounds?

Bernadette: Sure, who doesn’t?

Claude: Uh, normal people. Have you been asking people to repeat themselves? Are you having trouble hearing people when there’s a lot of background noise?

Bernadette: Maybe.

Claude: It might be something as simple as an infection, but it could be more serious, like damage to your eardrum or inner ear if you can’t hear sounds at low decibels.

Bernadette: I am not getting a hearing aid.

Claude: Would you prefer people to yell?

Bernadette: What?! Smell? You think I smell? Well, that’s just rude!

[end of dialogue]

Bernadette asks Claude, “Why are you mumbling?” “To mumble” (mumble) means to speak in a low, soft, difficult-to-understand voice. When someone mumbles, they go [mumbles]. It’s something that your teenage son and daughter might do, especially if you’re asking them questions and they don’t really want to tell you the truth. They might mumble so they make it difficult for you to understand them. It’s sort of an insulting thing to tell someone that he is mumbling. It means the person doesn’t know how to speak properly or doesn’t want to speak properly.

Claude says, “I’m not. I said, ‘What’s wrong with your hearing?’” Your “hearing” (hearing) is your ability to understand sounds – the ability to use your ears to hear other things, other people. We talk about the five senses that a human has. The other four are sight, which involves your eyes; taste, which involves your tongue; touch, which involves most of the outside of your body, we could say; and smell, which involves your nose.

Now the joke here is that Claude was asking Bernadette what was wrong with her hearing and she couldn’t hear him. Bernadette says, “Nothing is wrong with my hearing. You just need to speak up.” “To speak up” is a two-word phrasal verb that can mean a couple of different things. Here it means to speak more loudly, to raise or increase the volume of your voice. “To speak up” can also mean to make your opinion known, especially when perhaps you disagree with the decision of your boss or someone in charge.

We sometimes talk about “speaking up for other people.” That means we are voicing our objections, we are telling other people our opinions about things in order to try to protect or help someone else. In our dialogue, however, “to speak up” just means to speak more loudly. Claude responds, “I’m practically shouting.” The word “practically” here means almost or nearly. “To shout” (shout) means to speak in a very loud voice, to “yell” (yell), we might say.

Claude says, “You need to see a doctor about your hearing loss.” “Hearing loss” is when you start to lose your ability to hear people clearly and accurately. This, of course, is something that often comes as you get older. Claude says that Bernadette should see a doctor about her hearing loss, but Bernadette responds, “I’m not hard of hearing.” “To be hard of hearing” means not to be able to hear very well. It may at times also be used to describe someone who cannot hear at all.

If you can’t hear anything at all, you are what we would call “deaf” (deaf). That’s the traditional term. More recently, people have talked about the “hearing impaired” (impaired). Some people consider “hearing impaired” to be a more polite way to talk about people with hearing problems.

Bernadette says she’s not hard of hearing. She says, “It’s probably just a buildup of earwax.” “Earwax” (wax) is a substance that is produced in your ears to keep germs out of your body. It’s a brown- or yellow-colored substance. A “buildup” (buildup) – one word – is an increase in the amount of something, often something that increases little by little over a long period of time. Now, if you have a buildup of earwax, that might prevent you from hearing properly.

What Bernadette is saying is that she isn’t hard of hearing. She just has a buildup of earwax that if she were to clear out, or clean out, would allow her to hear just fine. Claude disagrees. “This is more serious than earwax,” he says. “Do you hear ringing in your ears?” “To hear ringing (ringing) in your ears” is to have sort of a light, echoing noise that shouldn’t really be there. That could be a sign of hearing problems. When Claude asks her, “Do you hear ringing in your ears?” Bernadette says, “Not more than usual.”

Claude says, “Meaning you usually hear ringing sounds?” Bernadette responds, “Sure, who doesn’t?” Claude says, “Uh, normal people.” Claude is asking Bernadette if she hears these ringing sounds. Bernadette says well yes, of course, but assumes that everyone has these ringing sounds. Claude tells her no, they don’t. Then he asks her, “Have you been asking people to repeat themselves?” “To repeat yourself” means to say again what you had just said. “To repeat yourself” means – just kidding.

Claude then says, “Are you having trouble hearing people when there is a lot of background noise?” “Background noise” is noise that can be heard but isn’t really what you’re focusing on. It’s not the noise that you want to hear. It’s all the other noise or sound that might be present in that particular environment. Bernadette says, “Maybe,” meaning perhaps she does have problems hearing other people if there’s a lot of noise in the room, a lot of background noise.

Claude then says, “It might be something as simple as an infection, but it could be more serious like damage to your eardrum or inner ear.” An “infection” (infection) is a medical condition where bacteria gets inside of your body and makes you sick. Your “eardrum” (eardrum) is a part of your inner ear – the part of your ear that’s inside of your body that moves – or we would say “vibrates” – when it is hit by sound waves, and this allows you to interpret and understand the sounds. It allows your brain to understand the sounds.

Claude says there may be damage to Bernadette’s eardrum or inner ear that causes her not to be able to hear sounds at low decibels. A “decibel” (decibel) is a measure of how loud something is. “Low decibels” would be sounds that are not very loud at all. Bernadette then says, “I am not getting a hearing aid” (aid). A “hearing aid” is a small electronic device that you put inside your ear to help you hear better.

As people get older, sometimes they need hearing aids, although many people don’t want a hearing aid. They don’t want people to see, in effect, that they cannot hear very well, probably because it reminds them that they are old. Claude says, “Would you prefer people to yell?” “To yell” means to talk very loudly, to shout. Bernadette says, “What?! Smell? You think I smell? Well, that’s just rude!” Claude asked Bernadette if she preferred people to yell, but Bernadette didn’t hear him correctly. She thought Claude said the word “smell” (smell).

The verb “to smell” in this case means to have a certain odor – an unpleasant smell, an unpleasant odor. If you go to the gym and you work out, you run – well, you’re probably going to smell a little. Your body has sweated, and sometimes that’s not the most pleasant smell. It’s insulting, of course, to tell someone that he or she smells. The other verb we might use for this situation is “to stink” (stink).

Bernadette is surprised that Claude would insult her in this way – that’s why she says, “You think I smell? Well, that’s just rude!” She’s saying that Claude is being “rude” (rude) to her. “To be rude” to someone means to be mean to them, not to be very nice to them.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Bernadette: Why are you mumbling?

Claude: I’m not. I said, “What’s wrong with your hearing?”

Bernadette: Nothing is wrong with my hearing. You just need to speak up.

Claude: I’m practically shouting. You need to see a doctor about your hearing loss.

Bernadette: I’m not hard of hearing. It’s probably just a buildup of earwax.

Claude: This is more serious than earwax. Do you hear ringing in your ears?

Bernadette: Not more than usual.

Claude: Meaning you usually hear ringing sounds?

Bernadette: Sure, who doesn’t?

Claude: Uh, normal people. Have you been asking people to repeat themselves? Are you having trouble hearing people when there’s a lot of background noise?

Bernadette: Maybe.

Claude: It might be something as simple as an infection, but it could be more serious, like damage to your eardrum or inner ear if you can’t hear sounds at low decibels.

Bernadette: I am not getting a hearing aid.

Claude: Would you prefer people to yell?

Bernadette: What?! Smell? You think I smell? Well, that’s just rude!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter is not hard of hearing. She can hear just fine, and she can write even better. Thank you to Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to mumble – to speak in a low, soft, unclear voice that makes it difficult for others to understand one’s words

* I can’t understand you. Please stop mumbling and start speaking clearly.

hearing – one’s ability to detect and understand sounds

* His hearing was damaged after years of working at the airport, directing planes on the ground.

to speak up – to speak more loudly; to raise or increase the volume of one’s voice

* Lionel needs to speak up if he wants the bus driver to hear his question above the traffic noise.

practically – almost; nearly

* She was so embarrassed that her face was practically the color of a tomato!

to shout – to yell; to speak in a very loud, usually angry voice

* At the noisy bar, they had to shout to be heard over the crowd.

hearing loss – a decrease in one’s ability to detect or perceive sounds clearly and accurately

* If Hal’s hearing loss continues, he might need to learn to read lips.

hard of hearing – not able to hear very well; with damaged hearing

* Greg is hard of hearing in his left ear, so it’s better to speak into his right ear.

buildup – accumulation; an increase in the amount of something, adding a little bit at a time over a longer period of time

* It’s important to go to the dentist regularly to clean off any tartar buildup on your teeth.

earwax – a yellow or brown substance that is produced in the ears to keep germs out of the body

* Don’t try removing earwax yourself with that tool. You could damage your hearing.

ringing – a light, musical, echoing noise usually made by two pieces of metal hitting each other

* The town knows when there has been a wedding by the ringing of the church bells.

to repeat (oneself) – to say again what one has just said

* You don’t have to repeat yourself. I heard you the first time.

background noise – noise that can be heard, but that is not one’s focus; additional noise that happens while one is trying to listen to or focus on something else

* During a telephone conference call, it’s a good idea to minimize background noise by closing the door and windows and turning off music and any electronics.

infection – a medical condition where bacteria gets inside the body, making one sick

* Be sure to clean that cut really well, or you might get an infection.

eardrum – tympanic membrane; a part of the inner ear (the part inside the body) that vibrates when it is hit by sound waves, which allows one to interpret and understand sounds

* Flying with a sinus infection can be painful because of pressure on the eardrum.

inner ear – the parts of the ear that are inside the body, not the parts that can be seen on the sides of the head

* If the ear is cut off, a person can still hear if the inner ear remains intact.

decibel – a measure of how loud sound is; a measure of the level of sound

* A normal conversation is about 60 decibels, but the noise inside a nightclub is often around 110 decibels.

hearing aid – a small electronic device that is placed on or inside the ear to help someone hear better

* Hearing aids used to be very large, but now, they can be inserted into the ear and are almost invisible.

to yell – to shout; to speak in a very loud, usually angry voice

* The two brothers were yelling at each other, and we were afraid they would start hitting each other, too.

to smell – to have a particular odor, especially an unpleasant odor

* The inside of the gym smells like sweat and dirty socks.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these has the lowest volume?
a) Mumbling
b) Shouting
c) Yelling

2. How might a buildup of earwax affect one’s hearing?
a) It might cause someone to imagine sounds that don’t exist.
b) It might make it easier to ignore background noise.
c) It might block sounds so that they are not heard.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
hearing

The word “hearing,” in this podcast, means one’s ability to detect and understand sounds: “Karen has very good hearing and can understand what people are saying even when they whisper on the other side of a large room.” The “hearing-impaired” are people who do not hear well: “Rajani is hearing-impaired, but he isn’t deaf.” When talking about the law, a “hearing” is a special meeting where the judge learns more about the case and determines how it should be handled: “Dress well for the hearing. You’ll want to make a good impression on the judge.” Finally, a “hearing” is also an opportunity for someone to present or explain his or her position or opinion: “Did you feel like the moderator gave you a fair hearing, or was she biased toward your opponent?”

smell

In this podcast, the verb “to smell” means to have a particular odor, especially an unpleasant odor: “When co-workers bring fish for lunch, it makes the whole office smell like a seafood restaurant.” Or, “Those roses smell lovely!” The verb “to smell” can also mean to perceive an odor through one’s nose: “We could smell the freshly baked cookies as soon as we walked into the house.” The phrase “to smell a rat” means to perceive that something bad, dishonest, or illegal is happening: “The police closed the case too quickly, without conducting a full investigation. I think I smell a rat.” Finally, the phrase “to smell trouble” or “to smell danger” means to believe that something bad or dangerous will happen: “I smelled trouble the moment Heather walked into the office.”

Culture Note
Public Services for the Hearing-impaired

The “Americans with Disabilities Act” requires that people with “disabilities” (people with a medical condition that reduces their ability to perform as others do) must have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from public services. Because hearing loss is considered a disability, this means that there are many public services to help the hearing-impaired. These “accommodations” (ways that services are altered to be useful to people with particular conditions) are required for businesses of a particular size if those accommodations do not “place an undue burden” (result in extreme expenses or effort) on the business.

For example, if businesses and government agencies normally provide information “orally” (using spoken words), they must be able to provide the same information “in a written form” (in writing) for the hearing-impaired. They must have “adequate” (enough; appropriate) “signage” (signs) for hearing-impaired individuals to find what they are looking for. And any “auditory” (related to sound) alarms, such as “fire alarms” (loud sounds and flashing lights that warn people to leave a building when there is a fire), must be “complemented by” (accompanied by; used in conjunction with) “flashing” (with a light turning on and off repeatedly) alarms for the hearing-impaired.

Businesses and agencies many need to accept calls made through a “relay service,” sometimes called “Teletype” (“TTY”) or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf” (“TDD”), which is a system that allows the “deaf person” (a person who cannot hear) to type a message so that the TTY worker reads it over the phone, and when that non-hearing-impaired person relies orally, the TTY worker types the message for the deaf person to read.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c