Of all the senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing), there is no doubt as to which is the most important: common sense.
However, it would be pointless to do a column about that one, because that would mean I’d have to delve into ‘The Big Three’: Sex, Politics and Religion. I’m not an authority on them, so I choose to avoid stepping into those land-mined and booby-trapped fields.
Those of you born when cars had high-beam buttons and clutch pedals on the floor, split windshields but no turn-indicators may be turning a deaf ear to that. Gradual loss of hearing is one of the common afflictions that accompany aging. Some loss is avoidable, but steps to minimize loss were all too often not taken.
Those of you of the age that knows just about everything have excellent hearing, but are neglecting to protect it.
Just think of the pleasurable sounds that come with having good hearing: the first babblings of a baby; birds’ spring-time songs; bullfrogs’ basso profundo croaks; a cat purring as it kneads; coyotes’ yip, yip, yips; the evening serenades of crickets; the whir of a hummingbird’s wings; loons’ eerie calls; your lover’s soft “Yes!”; roosters’ reveille; the song of the whip-poor-will, the bird you’ve probably never seen; wolves’ hunting howls…
Then there are the essential useful sounds: the camera’s click that confirms focus or shutter release; engine knocking and clatter, suggests a need for valve adjustment; the engine’s screaming is the prompt for shifting to a higher gear; the off, on, off, on of the well’s pump asks, “Is the toilet’s flapper unseated? Is there a tap dripping?”
If you’ve ever listened to the entertaining and informative NPR radio series “Car Talk”, by Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers”, (Tom and Ray Magliozzi) you will understand why some older car mechanics make diagnoses by asking, “Does it sound like this?”, or “Let’s hear you do an imitation.”
As a long-time aircraft spotter, I treasure my still intact sense of hearing. With accuracy that astounds non-aerophiles, by hearing alone, I can identify aircraft engine types: piston radial vs. Rotax-type vs. turboprop vs. jet. In addition, common aircraft types can be identified: DC-3 vs. Hercules vs. Harvard vs. ultralight vs. seaplane vs. helicopter.
God gave us not just one ear, but two, for a good reason. Having two ears confers stereophonic acuity. That tells me the direction to look for the yet unseen approaching aircraft. A hunter with acute hearing swings his gun at the part of the forest from which the attacking bear will emerge.
Protect your hearing: avoid being near the speakers at a rock concert. Ear muffs for winter, ear guards when operating heavy machinery. Otherwise, when Carrie Underwood sings “Do you hear what I hear?”, you’ll have to say that you don’t hear a thing.