Penkava: A sound investment gone wrong

There’s something wrong with my ears. At least that’s what my wife told me. “Either you can’t hear,” she observed, “or you just don’t want to hear.”

“Did you say just doughnuts and beer?” I anxiously asked.

Within a week I was at the ear doctor waiting for a hearing test. When it came my turn, I told the audiologist that I had stayed up late that night studying for the test.

“How do you study for a hearing test?” she quizzically asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

She then sympathetically smiled at me, took me by the arm and slowly led me into the listening booth.

“Just sit here, put on the headphones and listen for my instructions,” she told me as she locked me inside the soundproof chamber. I sat there in the deafening silence, the walls closing in on me like a George Foreman Grill on a hamburger. I don’t know how well I did on the hearing test because all I could think about was how I wished Chuck Norris was on the other side of the door waiting for my signal to knock it down with a roundhouse kick and save me.

When the test was over the audiologist shared the results with me. I discovered that I was lacking a bunch of essential conversational frequencies. So she had a few questions for me…

“Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?”


“Um … next question … Mr. Penkava, does your wife sometimes tell you to turn the television volume down?”

“My wife … television? We like to watch “Antiques Roadshow” together.”

“That’s nice. Do you misunderstand what others are saying and then respond inappropriately?”

“Yep, the Cubs will go all the way this year.”

“One more question … do people get annoyed with you because of your hearing loss?

“That’s hard to say. People get pretty much annoyed with me no matter what. Like when I was in that tiny box you put me in. You kept telling me to press the button when I could hear the sound. But I was pressing it before you started the sounds. So you had to keep telling me to wait for the sounds. Then I said, ‘What sounds?’ And then I started telling you Chuck Norris facts, like how the dinosaurs aren’t extinct, they are just hiding from him. And how outer space exists because it’s afraid to be on the same planet as Chuck Norris. And how when he works out in the gym the machine gets stronger. And ...”

“OK! OK! Mr. Penkava … I understand … just give me a few seconds of peace and quiet so I can figure out what to do with you … I mean, how I can help you.”

And so went my appointment at the ear doctor. I wound up getting a nifty hearing aid that has greatly improved my hearing.

With my new hearing device I do not have to ask my wife to repeat herself so much. Unfortunately, I have also now lost my excuse for ignoring her reminders to take the trash to the curb on Monday nights.

Now I can’t say that I misunderstood her, either. Thus, when she tells me not to leave the knife in the peanut butter jar, I can’t claim that I thought she said, “Don’t heave your wife in the seat of the car.”

But, worst of all, I have no excuse for being irritating and annoying. Come to think of it, with this new hearing aid, I have lost all pretext and defense for any of my quirky and eccentric behaviors and excuses. It’s like all of a sudden I have to be a normal, responsible person.

So thanks a lot, Mr. Mini Pixel Behind-the-Ear Personal Hearing System! You may have fixed my hearing, but my game plan is now in shambles. Geesh.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He actually is very appreciative of his audiologist and hopes the 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who suffer from hearing loss can find relief as well. He can be reached at

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