By Mordechai Schmutter

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Do you ever feel like your hearing’s going, but it doesn’t really matter because the only thing people seem to be saying is: “Nothing; never mind”?

Do you have entire conversations with your wife in which you both keep saying, “What?” over and over?

WIFE: “Something something.”

YOU: “What?

WIFE: “What?”

YOU: “I said ‘what’ first.

WIFE: “What?”

Does your wife keep pointing out that you’re going deaf, but then blaming you when you don’t hear what she says?

WIFE: “You never listen to me.”

YOU: “How is that my fault? I thought you said my hearing was going!”

Do you find it annoying that, with the exception of your spouse, no one else seems to notice that your hearing is going?

Do you find yourself in conversations with people in which they say something, and you say, “What?” and they say it again, but not any louder, and you say, “What?” and they say it again, and you say, “Ha-ha, yeah,” and hope it wasn’t a question?

Does this kind of thing happen a lot at weddings?

Do you suspect that music at weddings has been getting louder and louder, but you’re afraid to say something about it because you’re not sure if it’s actually getting louder or you’re just getting old?

Do you wonder how music that loud can be enjoyed by anyone, particularly the guy who keeps driving by your house at all hours, sharing his music with the entire neighborhood, like an incredibly intense ice cream man?

Do you find it hard to dance with the music that loud, because you can’t exactly cover your ears because your hands have to be holding other people’s hands or their sweaty backs? Do you think a better way of dancing would be to have each person, instead of holding hands, put his fingers in the ears of the two people next to him?

Are you interested in saving however much of your hearing is left, but all the experts keep saying that the way to do that is to not listen to anything too loud, which you think is kind of like saying that if you want to save your eyesight, you shouldn’t look at anything too big?

If you said, “Yes,” to any of these questions, you’re a little weird, because you’re talking to a newspaper. But don’t worry! We can solve at least one of your problems.

You can do what I do!

“What?” you’re saying.

“YOU CAN DO WHAT I DO!” I’m saying.

“No, I heard what you said,” you’re saying. “I want to know what you do.”

“Oh,” I’m saying. “I’m a writer.”

“No, that’s not what I mean. You’re saying I should become a writer?”

“No way! There’s no money in that. But I do work at home, and there’s really no noise there, except when I’m trying to work.”

So that’s not a solution. I used to wait until the kids were in bed in the evenings, but they kept getting older, baruch Hashem, and they started going to bed later and later, and they’re not getting any quieter. Especially the one who does jumping jacks before bed. And at this point, it might be more worth it to wake up before them and try to get my work done, except that by the time I get home from shacharis, they’ll be up anyway. So that’s not the solution I’m talking about. But I’m getting there.

My point is that I often need to get work done with noise in the background. How many times do I have to ask them to be quiet while I’m working? And I’m the deaf one?

I’m definitely the deaf one. And my kids keep whispering things to me anyway. One of my kids specifically whispers to me in shul, and I bend down to listen, because some of it is important, appropriate things to discuss in shul, such as which Shemoneh Esrei he should say, though some of it is not. Though if it’s not, I don’t know it until I’ve asked him to repeat it five times, and he can’t go any louder each successive time, because it’s a shul, and I can’t just say, “Ha-ha, yeah,” because that’s a very dangerous thing to say as a parent when you don’t know what your kid is asking. And when I do find out what he’s saying, I say, “This is something you had to say to me during davening?” and he goes, “You’re the one who asked me to repeat it five times.”

I actually once asked a musician why the music is so loud. His reply was that if it’s not loud enough, people complain that they can’t hear it. And they don’t want to hear people complain, so they drown the people out.

“OK,” I said. “But what about the people who complain that it’s too loud?”

“I haven’t heard anyone complain about that.”

Well, that doesn’t really answer my question, does it?

And talk about a guy who’s trying to work with noise. And I’m complaining? He’s trying to work, and not only is there really loud noise, there are also people dancing and screaming and kids looking over his shoulders. So you really have nothing to complain about. Or do you?

Do you have problems with noise at work, too?

Do trucks love backing up in front of your house, for some reason?

Do you have a neighbor who, every time you try to take a nap in the middle of the day, decides it’s time to mow his lawn?

Do you work in a place where people say a lot of lashon ha’ra that you want to block out?

If you said “yes” to that last question, I’m not mekabel.

Regardless, do you want to replace the noise with a tight pressure on both sides of your head?

Well, you can do what I did! I recently got myself a huge, oversized pair of ear-protecting safety earmuffs!

You, too, can wear a set of massive earplugs that will transform you from someone who can’t concentrate to someone who looks like he’s getting transmissions from outer space! It presses on both sides of your head for a tight seal, and all you hear is what it would sound like to work underwater!

Don’t panic. You need to conserve your oxygen.

Made of heavy plastic with three layers of foam underneath, they can be worn for hours on end! Though if you do, your ears will smell like feet. And your head will be narrower. But it’s great for hearing protection!

Earring collection?

In fact, I’m wearing them right now, and I’m not getting disturbed, except that they don’t block out the jumping jacks.

“But what if the baby cries?” you ask.

Well, maybe you can put them on the baby, so he won’t wake up from his nap so easily! Then, when he wakes up, you can put them on yourself!

And anyway, you can actually hear just fine. The headphones only turn down the volume to an acceptable level. So you, too, can find yourself saying things like, “The baby’s crying, but don’t worry about it. It’s an acceptable level!”

And if you’re not sure if they work, bear in mind that they’re actually made for gun ranges! Because that’s what you want at a shooting range: to not hear people coming up behind you while you’re shooting.

Or maybe it’s for if you’re spending the day at a shooting range, but you also want to get work done. Like if you’re trying to do paperwork, and you can’t think because people keep shooting. And you can’t tell them to go shoot outside, because they’re holding guns.

So yes, you can actually hear what’s going on around you. But while wearing these headphones, you, too, can pretend to not hear people whom you actually can hear, thus allowing you to get more work done!

And if the people around you are skeptical about whether they work, you can do what I do! If I ever want to show my kids that the earmuffs work, I start talking and put the earmuffs on them, and then as soon as I put them on, I start mouthing the words but not saying anything. And my kids are like, “How come I can hear everything else in the room better than I can hear you?”

“That’s how they work. You can’t hear human voices.”

Sure, there are other solutions. My wife got a package of tiny earplugs for us to wear at weddings, and they’re great, except that they don’t really block out the sound. They basically just send a message to the people who are standing there when you put them in. But the music is a little lower, and they’re easy to carry. They’re also a great thing to put in those bags that you give to overnight guests who come to your simcha! And then you can find out later how many people ask you why there were only two marshmallows!

So maybe we should start wearing these big ones to weddings! Not only would they block out more sound, they would communicate to the people around you, “I can’t talk now; I have to call Mission Control.”

They would also kill your hat.

So order one now! Operators are standing by!

Be patient, though. They might not hear the phone ring. 

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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