I have partial hearing loss in both ears. Not from listening to loud music, which has become the usual cause for people my age (between 15-50). No, I was working on an airplane, actually inside an airplane. We were bucking rivets, which requires one person on the outside with the pneumatic gun, sort of a very precise air-powered hammer, and one inside with the heavy metal bar. The punch in the gun hits the end of the rivet. The bar holds the rivet in place, and the rivet spreads out, filling the hole and pulling two (or three) pieces of metal together, a bit like brads on your jeans pockets. Yours truly, being (back then) small, limber, and foolish, happily squirmed her way inside the antique Navy airplane and bucked rivets for half an hour or so. Without any form of hearing protection. I knew I might have problems when I got out of the plane for dinner and the boss was moving his mouth but making no sound. Took an hour for my ears to return to normal. Now, I’m very sensitive to high pitches and any background noise washes out conversation. And I always use ear protection.
Last month, I tuned in the Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is one of the Christmas shows I look forward to, because, well, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the organ. I’m a choir buff, what can I say? So the program started well, and then the Muppets (TM) arrived. I kinda like the Muppets because of growing up with Big Bird and friends. And then Elmo and the young girl character started talking and I had to hit the mute button.
Their voices hurt. I’m not fond of characters that speak in third person without good reason (See the Rogue Squadron novels for a good reason), and the Elmo toy irked me when it first came out. But those high-pitched voices caused almost physical pain. I could not listen to them. I’ve never experienced anything like that before from the TV, and the first time it happened, I thought well, maybe it’s just the TV being on speaker and the tweeters were acting up, so I turned off the speakers. Nope. The voices hurt. The high pitches and something else, an overtone perhaps, cut into my ears and made me grit my teeth. So I watched with one finger over the remote.
I was very disappointed. In part because I’m a tad bit old for the Muppets and I was hoping for an hour of great music. What music there was sounded excellent. But the voices grated and cut, ruining the scenes those two happened to be in. Also, the Muppets on the screen struck me as being dumbed down. Not Big Bird or Grover as much as Elmo and the pigtailed girl. I’d heard other people complaining that the show wasn’t what they remembered, but I’d chalked it up to age. No, even Cookie Monster made more sense than Elmo, and Cookie Monster too has become health conscious rather than comic.
Happily for me, the BYU channel also had reruns of previous years’ concerts, so I was not totally without benefit of music. And Christmas at Belmont featured Kathy Mattea and some really great choral music, so the evening ended on an up note, if you’ll pardon the phrase.
But if any of my readers have dogs that howl when Elmo talks, they have my sympathy.