Health & Fitness

Aging Matters: A message worth repeating

My answering machine and I have a love/hate relationship. It faithfully reports calls bearing important information but also offers to lower my credit card costs or protect my home from intruders. Since I always pay the card in full, I don’t care about the rate. And in my senior living digs, I never worry about burglars.

Telemarketing irritates most of us, but too many legitimate calls leave me frustrated because I can’t understand them. Blame the machine, blame my hearing. But much of the time, the blame lies with the callers and how they speak.

Last week, somebody left me a long rambling message that droned on and on, one continuous mumble. I’ve played it over and over, both with and without my hearing aid. He/she (I don’t know which) apologized for something, but whom it was and what they did I’ll never know.

Too many times, pager or PA or CB announcements are garbled. The busy speaker’s words brush by, leaving me clueless. Many phone callers talk too fast, mumble, talk too fast, ramble, talk too fast. Slow down!

More than once, I’ve soap boxed about reports by Wichita State University’s Ray Hull that as we age, our auditory system gradually returns to the level of the young child, whose hearing responds to 124 words per minute max. Most adults speak upwards from 160 words per minute, and many even faster.

There oughta be a law. When a recorded message includes a vital phone or email address, please repeat it at least once, speaking digit-pause-digit, as in six ... eight ... four, etc.

Numbers are one thing. Names are even worse. A friend may not bother to identify herself, assuming you’ll know the voice. Or she’ll say, “This is Joan.” But you know at least three Joans! A stranger speaking rapidly without repeating has lost you.

Three simple rules improve phone messages at all ages:

1. Start by clearly stating your full name.

2. Slow down! Separate each word from its neighbor. Space is the mortar that binds words into a wall of meaning.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.