June 08, 2011

The Mumblers

I remember when I first started to have children, a guy in my group was telling me about another guy I worked with whose son never came when called, who never did as he was told, and you never looked up when being spoken to.

In a fit of frustration, he took his son to an audiologist and had his hearing tested, only to find out that the son had perfect hearing. It turns out the kid just suffered from... being a kid and living in his own world.

I'd love to say this was uncommon, something that only happened to his kid, but if that were the case, Bill Cosby wouldn't have made millions on just that scenario.

What I did find hilarious, is that our engineering co-worker's mind was completely boggled by the fact that his kid was absolutely not listening or doing as he was told. He absolutely could not comprehend this thought process and thought for sure the cause had to be physiological.

I'm living a similar life to that... with teen boys.

For the last two years, as my eldest boy's voice when from a tenor to a bass, from talking like a normal 'kid' to talking into a well, I've struggled to understand him. When my second son's voice changed, the struggle began there as well.

I found myself starting out patiently, "One more time?" "Please repeat..."

Add to the frustration that Pop's Parkinson's was getting worse and the fact I absolutely could not understand or hear him... even though I knew he had issues... everyone else seemed to cope with it, whereas I found myself feeling like I was living in a cone of silence.

Everyone else could hear them all, but me.

Finally in a snit last week, I made an appointment with our ENT for him to check my ears and my hearing. My husband kept saying, 'It's not you, it's them' to which I would reply, 'Then why don't YOU have them repeat themselves over and over like I have to?'

The result? My hearing is normal for someone my age. The hearing loss is very normal, at jet engine noise, which is not from my job as I work with the prints and I'm not in the field. Its probably from some song I listened to too much, too loudly, when I was training for that crazy marathon. Those crazy years...

So I have normal hearing which means... my boys mumble and now I feel vindicated if you will.

I no longer get all pissy. Now if I can't understand them I say, 'You have one more time to get it right for me to understand you and then the conversation is over."

Pretty soon I'll put them on notice that they have one time to get it right and I walk.

What is with the mumblers? Am I the only one? Obviously in their head they are speaking clearly, but they're not.

It makes me bat crap crazy.

Posted by Boudicca at June 8, 2011 11:00 AM

I have the same problem...maybe people aren't enunciating as well as they used to since so much communication is textual now. I also depend on lip-reading, particularly in my classroom with students. I thought it was my hearing, too, but nope...all normal.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at June 8, 2011 01:17 PM

Teenagers' brains are so inundated with thoughts of nothing other than themselves that any responses - even audible - are involuntary, much like breathing...perhaps communication returns at age 25

Posted by: Pam at June 8, 2011 03:47 PM

Their brains are bathed in testosterone. Their minds are full of prurient thoughts and images. They can't form words.

Posted by: Angus of Islay at June 8, 2011 09:41 PM


The traditional adolescent boy response to everything. That or a grunt. You have been warned.

As Pam said, communication returns in the mid-20s or when a reason for talking appears.

Girls (on the other hand) never quit talking.

Posted by: The Thomas at June 8, 2011 09:52 PM

It's not just the boys - young girls today do not speak clearly. I am constantly asking the cashiers at Caribou Coffee and Dunkin Donuts to repeat themselves. (of course, it could just be because I have not had my morning coffee yet...)

Posted by: Mary at June 8, 2011 10:43 PM

Ugh. I so do not look forward to that.

Posted by: vwbug at June 9, 2011 05:35 AM

I'm glad you had your hearing checked anyway. As I learned, you don't have to be "old" to need hearing aids.

Posted by: George P at June 9, 2011 09:26 AM

I'm 28. My siblings are 16 and 14. My mom can't understand any of us on the phone, no one else has this problem.

No one else has this problem. Of her three children, I'm the only one that patiently repeats myself (up to) five times if it's important (usually finding a different way to say it, occasionally having to spell words out). If it isn't important, and I don't feel like repeating myself, I just tell her never mind, and we move on to a different subject.

There are times when I see similarities between you and her. It's kind of odd.

Posted by: Andrew Phule at June 9, 2011 04:19 PM

Andrew: Ask around and find your mom a good audiologist. They'll do a basic check to see if there's anything physically wrong. Then they'll do a hearing test. In addition to volume, she may be missing the high notes, the consonants that make words understandable. Did you say "no" or "go," etc. Hearing aids will help, but not 100 percent fix the problem. Good Luck - George

Posted by: George P at June 9, 2011 10:56 PM

Hmmmm.....it seems the one person I am having the hardest time hearing or understanding is my husband......is it real or just selective hearing?

Posted by: Trudy at June 10, 2011 07:10 AM

Combine a mumbler with a kid who turns away when he speaks, and you understand why there is so much parental yelling in our house.
Sometimes I rely on the ability to lip-read in order to verify what I think I'm hearing, and the kid takes that away from me. Grrr.

Posted by: Roses at June 10, 2011 05:10 PM

It's not just you. I recieved a letter from my Aunt after a recent telephone conversation. She wrote, "it was great to talk to you and I could even understand you-something that gets harder and harder with the way people slur their words and don't enunciate clearly. Of course, the fact that I'm losing my hearing has nothing to do with that! Seriously, the younger generation (my grandkids) are very hard to understand even when they are speaking in person to me."

What really bugs me is when you ask them, "what did you say?", and they respond, "Nothing". That makes me what to smack them.

Posted by: sticks at June 11, 2011 06:08 AM

It's a form of passive aggression. My husband does it when he's in a bad mood, intentionally making himself slightly less than intelligible so that I have to ask him two or three times to repeat himself. He doesn't even change his volume level to make himself clearer, which provokes me something fierce. It's a power thing, mama. Your solution is spot on. Ask once, then walk away if they're too rude or lazy or passive aggressive to open their mouths and project. I often picture myself as a magician with the never-ending scarf, pulling the words out of their mouths and then pulling some more until the scarf magically turns into a white dove. But the only magic I have is to turn on my heels and make myself scarce. If it's important, they will follow and suddenly conjure perfect elocution. If they were just being malicious mumblers like my husband, they've lost their dupe. Oh, the male of the species!

Posted by: Leigh at June 11, 2011 06:34 AM