Hearing Quotes and Sayings

Wayne Staab
August 11, 2015

Quotes/phrases related to hearing are numerous.  Some are humorous, some insightful, some useful, and others, just interesting.  I recently asked some colleagues to provide examples that were meaningful to them, or which they thought should be shared.  Only a small sampling of such quotes/saying sent are published here.  Certainly, many exemplary quotes are absent.  Please feel free to share additional quotes from and with your contemporaries in the “comments” section following this post.  Primary interest is from quotes given by your colleagues.




David Pascoe“Although it is true that mere detection of a sound does not ensure its recognition, it is even more true, that without detection the probabilities of correct identification are greatly diminished.”

    Attributed to David Pascoe, Ph.D.

    When referring to a hearing aid.



David Luterman“What you mean is you cannot test this child.”

Attributed to David Luterman, Ph.D.

As told by Jane Madell Ph.D., who worked for David following her Master’s Degree.  I had come to David’s office after trying to test a child and indicated that the child was not testable.  David looked at me and said, “What you mean is you cannot test this child.”  He told me I had to write that in my Report.  This may have been the most important thing anyone in this field ever said to me. I decided I did not want to say that often, so I developed good testing techniques so that I did not have to. I have told that to everyone who’s training I participated in and they tell me that they have told it to their students too.



MCK formal“It is far preferable to listen to clear speech in clear noise than distorted speech in distorted noise.”

Attributed to Mead Killion, Ph.D.

Submitted by Harvey Abrams, Ph.D.  Although I am not entirely sure, but I think it followed the introduction of the Class D amplifier.



Captain James Kirk“Damn it Jim…why do they call the speaker a receiver?  It confuses me.”  

Attributed to Captain James T. Kirk

Submitted by Steve Armstrong.  This was said to Captain James T Kirk, Captain of the Star Trek Ship Enterprise by Dr. McCoy, head physician.  Editor’s Note:  Although this did not come from the hearing discipline, it should have been a famous quote from one of our own.  It certainly has significant meaning when referring to hearing aids, and most are still confused.  Is it a speaker or receiver?



Darrell Rose“Submit it to a journal.  They might accept it.  And, if they don’t, they’ll suggest things.  If they accept it and you are wrong, you can always deny it in another article.”

Attributed to Darrel Rose, Ph.D.

Submitted by Mike Metz, Ph.D.  After beginning to work in Denver with Lavar Best and Jim Tabor, we had an animal lab in the medical school that was part of someone else’s grant.  We had generated a fair amount of evoked data and I was charged with a beginner’s interpretation.  Darrel Rose was on the faculty of Colorado State at the time and he occasionally visited Darrel Teter in Denver.  I asked Prof. Rose about what he would do and he provided the quote above.  Great advice from someone with the stature of Rose.  Not so good for a beginner.  BTW He and I are the only audiologists from Tremonton, Utah.  At least that’s what he told me.  Maybe he just wanted to make me feel better.



C. C. Bunch“The faintest sound which the listener can hear, not when he is reading the newspaper or enjoying a nap, but when his attention is focused on that particular sound.”

Attributed to C.C. Bunch, Ph.D.

Submitted by Bob Margolis, Ph.D.  This was Bunch defining the threshold of hearing.  This is from Bunch’s book, Clinical Audiometry, 1943, St. Louis, MO, C.V. Mosby, page 45.


David Fabry“PILL and BILL are just like TILL when they reduce their gain to nil.”

Attributed to David Fabry, Ph.D.

From the Vanderbilt Hearing Aid Report II (1991) which dealt with programmable and automatic noise reduction, and whether SNR advantages were magically present with digitally programmable hearing aids.



Sam Lybarger“A hearing aid is an ultra-miniature electro-acoustical device that is always too large.”

Attributed to Samuel Lybarger

Modified by Wayne Staab with Sam’s approval, for Audiotone in 1979.

The remainder of the quote:

“It must amplify sound a million times, but bring in no noise.

It must operate, without failure, in a sea of perspiration, a cloud of talcum powder, or both.

It is a product that one puts off buying for ten years after he needs it, but cannot do without it for thirty minutes when it has to be serviced.”



Mark Ross - 2002“When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.”

Attributed to Mark Ross, Ph.D.



Cynthis Compton Connelly“Assistive listening devices are like binoculars for the ears.”

Attributed to Cynthia Compton-Conley, Ph.D.



Gus Mueller“You have to hear what you don’t want to hear to know what you don’t want to hear.”

Attributed to H. Gustav Mueller, Ph.D.



Dan Orchik“Aren’t we polishing the brass on a sinking ship?”

Attributed to Dan Orchik, Ph.D.

Asked of Raymond Carhart, Ph.D. during the mid 1970s when the future of audiology was in question, by then doctoral student, Dan Orchik.  Asked at Michigan State University during a Carhart visit at the invitation of Bill Rintelmann, Ph.D.



Marlee Matlin, I Am Waters“I hope I inspire people who hear.  Hearing people have the ability to remove barriers that prevent deaf people from achieving their dreams.”

Attributed to Marlee Matlin



Gael Hannan“There’s never been a better time than now to have hearing loss.”

Attributed to Gael Hannan

Hearing impaired writer, advocate, and section editor of Hearing Health and Technology Matters, this Internet site.




Wayne Staab“Hearing aids are not fitted based on the degree of hearing loss necessarily, but on the degree of hurt – and only when that hurt is great enough, whether socially, economically, emotionally, or psychologically, does this individual become a candidate for hearing aids.”

Attributed to Wayne J. Staab, Ph.D.

Hearing Aid Amplification, 2nd Edition, 2000, Robert E. Sandlin, Editor.



And, some time-honored quotes:  


“The flood of sounds, noises, and voices which suddenly break into the consciousness of the person who has not heard them for years is very much like the first impact of direct sunlight on a person who has lived in a dungeon.”

Attributed to Sidney Blackstone


“Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf.”

Attributed to Julius Caesar

Caesar to Casa.  Julius Caesar, Shakespeare: Act 1 Scene 1


“I shall hear in heaven.”

Attributed to Ludwig van Beethoven. 

The terrible burden of his hearing deficiency may be understood from these words, spoken just before he died.


“I am just as deaf as I am blind.”

Attributed to Helen Keller

The sentence above was followed with: “The problems of deafness ae deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness.  Deafness is a much worse misfortune.  For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus – the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thought astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”


“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

Attributed to Peter Drucker


“The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.”

Attributed to Sigmund Freud


“Sober up, and you see and hear everything you’d been able to avoid hearing before.”

Attributed to Sammy Davis, Jr.


“Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.”

Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

Attributed to Fulton J. Sheen


“Praise does wonders for our sense of hearing.”

Attributed to Arnold H. Glascow


“Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.”

Attributed to J. K. Rowling


“The District of Columbia is one gigantic ear.”

Attributed to Ronald Reagan


“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Attributed to Mark Antony

Julius Caesar (Antony at III, ii), William Shakespeare


“The hearing ear is always found close to the speaking tongue.”

Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson


“One of the best hearing aids a man can have is an attentive wife.”

Attributed to Groucho Marx


“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

Attributed to Helen Keller

birdsong hearing benefits
  1. “When someone whispers in my ear, I tell them than blowing into my hearing aid doesn’t work!”

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