This is how things sometimes go at my house:
Me at the kitchen table, making a to-do list: "I need to wash my car."
My husband, sitting nearby, working on his Sudoku: "You need flash cards?"
Me, shaking my head: "You need your hearing checked."
My husband, after a beat: "Huh?"
Sometimes it's him, sometimes it's the other way around, and we usually laugh off the mix-ups as the natural decline in listenership after 22 years of hearing each other say the same thing a million times.
But during the past couple of years, as the misunderstandings have become more frequent, we've gotten snippier. I'll say, "I'll wash this," and he hears only "Wash this," as if I've decided he's the downstairs to my upstairs at Downton Abbey. When I read recently that people with hearing issues are more likely to divorce, I got a little scared. And I called an audiologist.
Read these steps on how to easily prevent hearing loss.
We're not old. I'm 53 and my husband, Robb, is 51. We're active and health-conscious, trying to beat back the effects of aging any way we can. But having trouble hearing feels like incontrovertible proof that we are old. Which is likely why we've put off hearing tests for years, distracting ourselves instead with Robb's complaints about the funky acoustics of our high-ceilinged house.
Early hearing loss (and a reluctance to deal with it) is shaping up to be a grim feature of our generation. Current estimates say that only 18 percent of Americans in their 40s and 50s have auditory issues, but that's based on self-reports, which are notoriously inaccurate. A recent study from Johns Hopkins put the numbers closer to 30 percent for that age-group, and some experts think that if you throw in the whole baby boomer generation, the real count could actually be closer to what it is in the U.K.: 40 percent of people over age 50, which translates to 40 million people here.