When my mother's mother was in her early twenties, a century ago, a suitor took her duck hunting in a rowboat on a lake near Austin, Texas, where she grew up.
The inability to hear well is fatiguing: straining to make out what people are saying, or relying on other senses to compensate, consumes mental resources that could be put to other uses, and largely for that reason, deafness can cause or contribute to social isolation and cognitive decline, both of which making getting older, which is itself associated with hearing loss, seem worse than it does already.
Hearing problems are often aggravated by the human tendency to do nothing and hope for the best, usually while pretending that everything is fine.
The remarkable rotational range of an owl’s neck, approaching that of the demonically possessed character played by Linda Blair in The Exorcist, enables it to smoothly turn its head until a sound signal is perceived by both ears simultaneously, and its eyes, thereby, are aimed directly at the source, further sharpening its ability to precisely locate prey.
This difficulty in understanding speech against a background of noise is a nearly universal problem for people over a certain age, and the situation in which they are most to notice it is when they are eating out.
A human’s pinnae are relatively small, and, although some of us can wiggle our ears very slightly if we try really, really hard and practice a lot, we can’t significantly alter their shape or aim them.
Indeed, the mental exertion required to deduce meaning from diminished signals is one of the reasons that age-related hearing loss can have a devastating impact on the cognitive abilities, social engagement, and general well-being of its sufferers.
Speaking louder to someone who’s having that kind of hearing trouble seldom helps much, because merely increasing the volume doesn’t cause the ear to pick up sounds it can’t hear at all.
The challenge with hearing aids is that every component has to be tiny, yet has to function ten hours a day on current drawn from a miniature battery that users expect to last at least a week.
“Hearing aids are orders of magnitude weaker than any other wireless device you’ll ever run into...a consequence of the fact that the entire device has to run for a week on a 1.45-volt battery the size of an aspirin tablet.” (Jason Galster)