A Train Is Growling?!
by Tina Blue
November 8, 2002
In "Talking Back to the Toilet" I describe some of the ways the ears of hearing-impaired persons can play tricks on them. We often don't hear sounds that are there, but we also frequently do hear sounds that aren't there. Perhaps even more frequently, we completely misinterpret the actual sounds that we do hear.
A few evenings ago I went with my friend Rachel to visit her three-year-old rat terrier, Muttley, who was going to live at my friend Theresa's house from now on, because Rachel has to move back to New Zealand for several years.
As we were leaving, Theresa's twelve-year-old son Christopher put Muttley on leash to walk us out to the car, so Rachel could have a last few minutes with her little dog.
Because I was wearing my hearing aids, I was hearing sounds I might not normally hear without them. Almost the minute we stepped outside, I began to hear growling. "What is Muttley growling at?" I asked.
Chris and Rachel replied simultaneously, so I couldn't understand most of what they were saying. But I did catch the idea that Muttley wasn't growling.
"Is there another dog somewhere, I asked, somewhat alarmed, since an unfamiliar growling dog might very well mean trouble, especially since we had a dog on leash.
As I looked around for the other dog, Rachel and Chris both said something explanatory. Isn't that always what happens? When we don't hear something well-meaning friends will try to help us, but they will all speak at once, so we never can understand what anyone is saying.
What I heard (along with the continuous growling, of course) was "Blah, blah, blah, train."
They had made it clear the first time that Muttley wasn't growling. I still had no idea what dog was growling or what a train might have to do with anything, but I tried to make some sort of sense out of puzzle pieces that weren't fitting together very well.
"Is the other dog growling at a train? Wait a minute! WHAT train?"
Chris and Rachel spoke simultaneously again. But all I could understand was that there was no other dog, and somehow they were attributing all that growling to a train.
"A train is growling?!" I asked in confusion."What are you talking about?"
After a couple more attempts to talk over each other at me, the two of them decided that Rachel would speak, without Chris's help.
Finally I could understand what she was saying. Muttley wasn't growling. There was no other dog. There actually was a train (surprising news for me!), but it wasn't really growling. It's just that even with my hearing aids in I could barely hear the sound of the train going over the tracks, so it sounded not like a train, but like the low growl of a nearby dog.
You know, I think I might just go back to conversing with toilets. I seem to have a lot less trouble understanding them--probably because they don't all try to talk at once.