Did you hear the one about the polar bear that walks into a bar?

I didn’t.


“What? Speak up son or I’ll have to shoot you!”

In fact, I don’t hear a lot of jokes people tell. Many of you are aware that, while I am far from deaf, I am hearing impaired. I have a severe discernment problem. That is, I have trouble discriminating between many consonants and vowels. For instance, e,t,p,c,d,g,z and b all sound the same to me when quickly spoken. That’s true also with n and m, s and f, y and i and a and k. If the person I’m conversing with is not speaking slowly and very clearly (sadly, proper diction is a lost art in this hurry up world we live in), these letters all mesh together to become indecipherable to my ears.

This has been happening slowly over the past 25 years and only gets worse with time. It’s frustrating, embarrassing and if a person allowed it, would cause them to withdraw from social interaction. I won’t.

That’s why I appreciate my blogging and Facebook friends so much. You are my contact with the outside world without the stress of straining to understand or having to ask for someone to repeat something a seemingly interminable number of times. Because of you, my desire, nay, my need, to communicate is steadfastly satisfied. And before you ask, hearing aids do not help much with this particular problem. It’s not about volume, but rather particular combinations of letters that, if not spoken very clearly, are difficult to understand. I know, I’ve tried them all.


Can you hear me now?

I know most of you have experienced the group game where 10 people sit in a line. The first person whispers a story into the ear of the person sitting next to him. That person then whispers the same story to the person next to him and so on down the line. By the time it gets to the 10th person it is completely different from the initial story. Well, I can do that with just two people! What a guy, huh?

However, by necessity, I’ve developed a pretty impressive repertoire of generic facial expressions and verbal responses to cover the fact that I haven’t quite understood a conversation. You’d be amazed at how often a simple smile or expression of surprise or amazement fits perfectly with whatever anyone says. You can determine which to use by the way the person delivers their comment. And “yep” “hmmm” and “sure” are my go-to retorts if a facial expression won’t do it. In desperate situations, an outright lie like “I get where you’re coming from…” generally bails me out.

Big Al

“Wow. I get where you’re coming from …..”

But it’s not all bad. Sometimes, conversations become more like comedy routines. When I repeat back my wife or family what I think I heard, it is so far from the actual that we can’t help but laugh. Abbott and Costello would have been proud of me. I often say that I might take up learning another language so I can misunderstand people in two languages!

The phone is the worst. When speaking face to face, I can at least read lips to help me pick up words. Not so on the phone. Accents are particularly hard for me, as you can imagine. In fact, why don’t we revisit one of my recent conversations with a technician helping me with a computer problem.

Tech: “Hello, with whom am I speaking?”

Me: “No, my room is not leaking, but thanks for asking. I’m calling with a computer problem.”

Tech:  “Software you’re using?”

Me: “No, I don’t suffer when I sing, other people do. Why do you need to know that?”

Tech: “Are you Windows?”

Me: “No I’m not widowed, I’m still married This is getting too personal. Can we just fix my computer?”

Tech: “Alright, do you mind if we use remote access?”

Me: “Ramon’s axes? No, I want to fix it, not destroy it. Goodbye!”

I think you see the problem.

This has been a long-winded way to tell you how much I enjoy bantering with all of you using social media. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me.

So anyway, this polar bear walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and says “I’d like a gin…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….and tonic!” The bartender replies: “OK, but why the big paws?”





Cartoon courtesy: Dave Shelton at OUTPOURINGS FROM AN UNTIDY MIND.

64 thoughts on “Did you hear the one about the polar bear that walks into a bar?

  1. Love the jokes! Being hearing disabled is isolating. My husband damaged his ears in his twenties in construction. He finally got hearing aids but has needed them since then. I love that blogging has kept you connected! With so many baby boomers needing hearing aids, maybe they’ll find something that works for you! You have such a witty sense of humor!

    • Thanks, Susie. I follow a couple of people with hearing impairment, so whenever I need a pity party I chat with them. Glad the hearing aids are helping Danny anyway.

      • I had a weird thought yesterday. No surprise there! I wondered if using headphones with a microphone would help. It sounds ridiculous, but it might work for family gatherings. I’ll stop now… 🙂

        • Absolutely! On our last trip to Europe we took walking tours where the guide used a mike and we picked it up wirelessly (and clearly) on our head phones. It pretty much made the trip for me. Weird is good!

  2. Sorry to hear you have to deal with this, Al, but thankful for social media, for many reasons. I know you understand “dog speak.” 😀

  3. I’m going to make a suggestion anyway. My husband is hearing impaired. It’s the reason we are so happily married. Ha! He hated his hearing aids and never used them. Then his friends told him to go to Costco. He bought the only kind they carry, which was very different and very cheap in comparison. He loves them. Wears them all the time. The scary part? He said they can be turned up to hear long distances. WHAT???? I want a pair so I can sit in a coffee shop and do “research” for my next book.

    • That’s interesting, Susie. After spending thousands on sophisticated aids my current pair is from Sam’s. They work as well if not better than any of the others, similar to what Danny is experiencing from Costco. Apparently, cheaper is better. Unfortunately, unlike vision correction science (in most cases), hearing science has not advanced near as far. We take what we can get but it isn’t like it used to be. Thank you for the input.

      As for his hearing long distances, I think he may have inadvertently been issued a listening device from the CIA. Did it by any chance come with a set of night vision goggles?

  4. So what you are saying is, reading between the lines, that, when you visited London, and I visited you, you didn’t hear half of what I was saying, and just smiled amiably – now I think about it, you did seem particularly amiable; clearly all a front – to keep me happy?


    • There was a lot of that, yes. You probably don’t remember all the times I asked you to repeat yourself, most people don’t. And since I was the one with the accent while there, I can’t blame that. Our personal conversations were not bad at all, but when several people are talking and laughing, I lose quite a bit. Having said all that, it was still an exquisite visit. (That’s for the poet in you.) And you are right, I am an amiable guy!

  5. Oh, Al. You poor nvefhiwutoldhwfioeyfoifhouscapj. I know what cnwoicnowfjiciofjccimwijpw. Right?

    But I know what you can do. It’s simple, just pdjiorhgoiroiejgpqjevpiojgoiejrgpivjm;KCMSOPjc. Okay? What are friends for? Any time, pal! I feel so ndofhodnoiiodvion when I read your blog! ANd I’ve never told you this, but since you were so forthcoming, I might just as well tell you…nciohohovndfimdce jfeijfioencodncmm doicjdoicodmcpej pfjpcmwpkdcmimpwokwpkxwxmwpxpwjwijpecepoifjpejovj. Please don’t tell your wife! 😉 ❤

    • Thanks to all the words you have made up over the years, I understood this completely. Thank goodness for Lornaspeak!

      P.S. Patty already knows about us. I told her it was all over, and I’m meeting you in Utah. That’s still on right?

  6. Only you Al can manage to discuss a serious topic while making it funny and highly entertaining! Loved this.

    I’m sorry about your hearing loss. I too suffer from a form if it and while not as bad as yours, I completely understand the generic responses/facial expressions you bring up. I know exactly what you mean and how to play those off!

    • Thank you for visiting my blog. Hope you stick around. Speaking of sticky, I hope you are able to extract yourself from the potpourri, that’s pretty messy stuff.

  7. Are you driving Patty crazy? David is hearing impaired in one ear and deaf in the other. He always misshears what I say, even if I repeat it six times. He then says, I can hear you just fine. At least you are not denying your condition. Good for you.

  8. I have a brother who does have hearing aids. He chooses not to wear them most of the time as he “likes his quiet world” He has perfected the art of the smile or raised eyebrows for when he does not hear.

    • Yes, we can really come up with a lot of expressions to speak for us. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but better that than ignoring a person or not going out into the world at all. Does your brother have any friends in his “quiet world?”

    • Thanks Gabriel.or is this really Steelcharmer? Glad you are following my blog. Yours is very interesting. Do you use a digital program to turn photos into watercolors or do you also paint?I’m curious. In any case, it is a wonderful effect on your posts.

      • Thanks Al. Depending on my mood I’ll answer to either.

        I haven’t found a program that will create the images I like, but I’m not very artistic so I combine photo manipulation with a series of filters to create an under copy that I can digitally paint over. (Sounds complicated and cheaty, but it’s a relaxing hobby and a decent way to improve my skills. Most importantly… let’s me pretend to be more talented than I really am😝)

        I’m looking forward to following ur blog Al. Please keep writing!

        • That is fascinating! It sounds like a lot or digital work but the results are fantastic. It give you blog a very personal feeling.

          Your hiking experiences sound interesting as well. How neat that you travel the world to do this. I have been a day walker on the Appalachian trail many times but I have great respect for through walkers and their dedication.

  9. How honest of you to admit this. I suspect my husband is getting more hard of hearing but, like Margy, it might be my listening or mumbling. He won’t admit it, like many people as they age. I don’t understand that thinking – how is needing a hearing aid any different than wearing glasses?

    My sister-in-law, Becky, is deaf but can hear a little with aids. She mainly reads lips when talking. When I was out in Boston/Maine for my fabulous blogger meetup with Darla and Jules, we stayed with Becky and she drove us around. I got a more thorough understanding of how this impacts her when we were going 75 on the highway out of town. In an effort to keep up with what we were talking about in the backseat, her eyes were focused more on the rear-view mirror than the road. Yikes! We shut up.

    • Absolutely! Road noise is so depressing. I don’t get to hear (understand) any of the conversation when we are out with a couple in the car. I feel for Becky because I have lived it so many times.

      If you read my response to Margie you will understand how it may be harder for hubby to understand you. Does he have this problem at work? On the phone? One of the best things about earing hearing aids these days is that so may people are walking around with bluetooth devices sticking out of their ear that we hearing aid wearers fit right in with the crowd now!

      There is a big difference between not understanding and not hearing. I “hear” everything that people say. I just have trouble discerning what it is.they are saying. But thank goodness for WordPress and especially “Pegoleg’s Ramblings!”

  10. I wonder if a lot of hearing issues have to do with the sped-up world you allude to. Civil discourse has all but gone the way of the 8-track. My longtime husband is 20 yrs younger than I, and he’s got the same problem you do. He’s a gentle soul and, though a very successful builder/contractor (who Does wear hearing protection), I think he’s overwhelmed a Lot, not that he complains. But we live in such a world, though we personally live at the ends of it! If I even Looked at his inbox or his text prompts on my phone, I’d have an apoplexy. The numbers are in the hundreds. I wonder if we humans are even wired for this many distractions, hunter/gatherers that we descended from – and not That many generations ago! So hang in there Al, which it appears as though you are doing – the only ‘fix’ is to uncomplicate one’s life as best we can, I think. Aloha.

    • Great reply Bela. It is absolutely true that this world is way too connected. We are slaves to technology and hardly have time for a deep breath. I was in industrial sales for many years. Naturally I was on the road a lot. I remember I use to have to hunt for a pay phone to check in with the office. If they needed me, they had to wait until I checked in again. The travel time between customers with no phone was a type of wind down time for me until I got to the next phone. These days, I don’t believe I could find a pay phone if my life depended on it.

  11. And the polar bear said, “I was born with them…” Took me a while to think through that pun…

    It is great that you are so open about your hearing issues. I sometimes think my husband is getting more hard of hearing, but it could also be a listening problem… Guess that comes when a ‘not morning person’ marries a ‘morning person’.

    • Oh yes, I was accused of “selective” hearing for quite a while. It is true, and probably so with your hubby also, that it is harder to understand women than men (their voices I mean, not their psyche which would take several more blogs to cover, ha ha). My hearing loss is in the high frequency range which unfortunately includes the human voice. It is terrible in my left ear, not as bad in the right. In my hearing test I got 6 words out of 25 in my left ear and 17 words out of 25 in the right. My low frequency hearing is perfect. I can hear someone slam a car door two houses away while sitting at my computer.

      The “morning person vs. not morning person” sounds like a great idea for a blog. I am looking forward to it Margie!

      • I want to know why, when I read this comment earlier today it was signed “Margy”, so I shrugged and spelled it that way in my comment. Now it shows as “Marggie.” Is someone messing with my head?

        • I noticed that too. I think she is playing with our minds. Those Canadians can be a tricky bunch! Perhaps a wall is in order. I’ll let The Donald know.

  12. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you Al. So glad you have this forum to stay connected & give you the opportunity to take in all of the conversation!

  13. Love this, Al. Now I know why I used to get “the look” from you so often. Nothing like a delayed epiphany! ⚘

    I think you’re not alone in this. Between my less-than-clear diction and my name, I try hard to give only my first name when I call someone. Spelling Bovender can be a challenge…one that can be dyslexified on occasion. One person years ago returned a call to Ms. Bendover! LOL.

    • Don’t recall having too much problem with you, Vickie. The acoustics at BDP were not bad except down in the foyer. I loved our bantering as you are so funny, not to mention our common name (Victor/Victoria). Hey, that would make a good movie title.

      I’m still chortling over the bendover comment, but I’m going to take the high road on that one.

  14. People talk over each other too, especially on TV which is one reason to not watch The Factor. I don’t have hearing problems, just the opposite I guess you could say. It’s tinnitus. I have to have some sounds, music, talking, singing, neck massager….(or swim constantly, preferably at the bottom of the pool)…for relief. The many docs are of no use….”You getting older”, said Doctor Chen. “Nerve cell degeneration.” Ok then. Can hardly wait till it gets worse!

    • I have also have tinnitus but it doesn’t really factor in to this problem. It is a mild form I believe. Agree on the talking over…..very disconcerting. When we are with another couple of three couple, sometimes two or three conversations are going on. That is extremely frustrating as I don’t understand the person who is talking to me. On more than one occasion, I have interrupted everyone and said, “please, if everyone else is going to talk at the same time I can’t hear anything. They generally comply for a while but then is starts up again. Can’t tell you how depressing it is.

  15. Hi Cousin,
    I hear your pain. Just had a visit to my hearing specialist. I’ve had the same problem since I damaged my hearing, shooting without hearing protection, at the stupid young age of 18. Who knew that 400 rounds shot from a tiny target pistol would have such a huge effect on their life. Anyway keep the faith and your humor. It is our best protection against life’s little twists and turns.
    Love from your wife’s cousin’s husband in San Diego.

    • Hey Marc, great to hear from you and thanks for checking in to my blog. Hope you will cruise around some of the other posts. As family, I think you will recognize some of the characters I have written about.

      Say hi to Kathy and I understand Brittany is back with you. Have fun!

  16. I completely understand your need for contact by social media. I have very different reasons but the same need.
    I think it’s great that you can use humour to get you through.

    When I first came to Germany, I hardly knew a word of German. And after 12 years here, I still struggle on the phone if I don’t know the person and they have a thick accent (which a lot of people do in my area).
    Over the years there have been, many, many, many misunderstandings.
    Like you I rely a lot on visual cues. I completely understand what you mean about asking again and again. The mistake that happened to me many times was that I laughed at what I thought was the appropriate moment but it was actually completely inappropriate (like the time I laughed when a neighbour told me her dog died, that wasn’t my best moment!! She barely acknowledges me anymore!!)
    What I also developed was an inner tape recorder. I hear a sentence or a phrase and I can play it back to myself several times so I can decipher what the person just said. It’s a really handy thing to be able to do but it has its limits. Like sometimes I don’t seem to have it switched on. Or other times I’m so busy relistening to the first sentence and trying to decipher what was said, that I miss the next three or four sentences!!

    • This is a very random reply, but ur comment was so serendipitous I couldn’t resist. I’ve been in Romania on and off for the past 5 years. Pretty sure many of my friends here keep me around for the comic relief I provide. Recently, when I made a rare and seemingly harmless contribution to the conversation by saying “what a cute little bird,” the stunned looks of shock and disgust still haunt me. (I won’t translate into Romanian, aside from mentioning that this is something one would apparently say to a prostitute they didn’t respect). Glad I’m not alone in these communication errors…

    • I understand. One thing I have found is if you know the context of a conversation, it helps. You can almost anticipate what is going to be said so if you can watch their lips you generally pick up the words. I also agree on the tape recorder comment. I’ll be busy deciphering one comment and I miss the next. I need to ramp up my recording ability in that regard. Good to hear from you again Sarah.

      • Yes context helps. I haven’t managed to record much more than a sentence. Despite all my efforts. My husband says sometimes he can see my inner tape recorder working as I go into this long pause mode and then suddenly burst out an answer!!

  17. I’m following in your footsteps, Al, and have had many similar experiences as you describe. I do blame other people for not enunciating and talking too fast. It’s their fault I can’t hear.

Your turn to write, but please don't be wittier than me. My ego is quite fragile.

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