WE ALL HAVE weaknesses. Many develop slowly over time. Some are inherited. Others are mental. Many are physical drawbacks passed down from one generation to the next until they're so diluted they're barely noticeable. Still others tend to exacerbate.

WE ALL HAVE weaknesses. Many develop slowly over time. Some are inherited. Others are mental. Many are physical drawbacks passed down from one generation to the next until they're so diluted they're barely noticeable. Still others tend to exacerbate.

My hearing has never been a strong suit. Both my great-grandfather and grandfather's hearing faltered. My Dad started to lose his when he was in his mid-twenties. Besides yours truly, five of my ten siblings either have some hearing loss or are showing signs of it. And it all seems to stem from what is called auditory nerve loss.

Hearing loss leaves much to be desired. Helen Keller once said she would rather be blind than lose her hearing. She explained that seeing can never help the deaf hear. But in many cases, being able to hear can help the blind "see." Having lost much of my hearing, I tend to agree.

Whenever I'm out and about, alone, and someone says, "Hello," unless I'm looking directly their way I miss their greeting, especially if their head's turned or they have a hand blocking their mouth. If I had good hearing and was blind I'd be more apt to identify them from the sound of their voice.

Our parents have always taught us kids never to be rude and over the years we've all tried hard to adhere to that principal of civilized society. However, if I don't respond, I'm not being rude. Those who know me know that isn't my style. I just haven't "heard" you. And so I ask you to either kindly overlook my perceived offense or try to make eye to eye contact. Even a light, friendly touch on the arm to gain my attention works well.

That's why I'm so grateful whenever my wife, Peggy, accompanies me. She listens attentively to people speaking and then later tells me what was said. That doesn't mean I need her whenever I do column interviews. On the contrary. During those occasions I try finding a noiseless venue and with wearing hearing aids, I get by.

However, wearing them whenever I'm out and about holding conversations with others, creates problems. Background noises become amplified and interfere with conversations. In my case, those noises, which may be faint sounding to others who have "20/20" hearing, are greatly amplified.

There have been times I've been blamed for using hearing aids unfairly. During marital disagreements, I've been accused of turning them off whenever it appears I'm losing an argument. The first time it happened, well, naturally, I was abso-tute-ly-lute-ly mohr-ti-fied. I looked my opponent straight in the eyes and asked, "What?"

Maybe I did turn them off. Maybe I didn't. In my advancing age I just can't recall any more.

Other times, what artificial hearing assistance we do have at our disposal leaves much to be desired. For example, I use closed caption on the television. If I didn't, I'd blast out the neighbors with a loud TV sound.

Nevertheless, closed caption also leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes I wonder if the persons who type out the messages aren't hearing impaired themselves. A few weeks ago, I was watching a news show about the capture of some slimy characters and the local prosecutor charging them with felonies. The closed caption read, "They were all read their Brenda Writes."

Now, even though I studied law, I wasn't familiar with "Brenda Writes." And so I asked Peggy. She immediately struggled to keep from falling off the chair laughing. "Miranda rights," she said, and then added, "Frank, I must admit there are times when closed caption writers are funnier than the comedy writers."

I've always suspected a good sense of humor helps maintain a healthy level of sanity. Like the next guy, I too love a good joke. And when it covers areas of which is personal, I love them all the more. Like Joe who was out walking his dog, and he ran into his friend, Chuck:

"Hi Joe," Chuck said. "What's new?"

"Got a brand new hearing aid," Joe answered as he turned his ear toward Chuck so his friend could see it.

"That's great, Joe. I wish you well and hope you have all the success with using it that you deserve," his friend offered.

"Yeah," Joe replied, "it's the latest one out on the market. Fully digital and state of the art circuitry. It reduces background noise to almost nothing and restores the natural sound of the human voice to 99.999 percent."

"Gee, that's just wonderful," Chuck said, shaking Joe's hand and again wishing him well. "By the way, what kind is it?"

Proudly glancing at his wrist, Joe answers, "Oh, about a quarter 'til three."

In case you're wondering, my ear specialist told me that years ago and I still get a good chuckle every time I tell it. And each time I 'hear' it, it reminds me once again of our human foibles and how having a good sense of humor helps keep everything in its proper perspective.

As a nation of speakers, we seem to take hearing for granted. That is, until we lose ours. Those are the times when trying to hear becomes an exercise in frustration … for both parties. Fortunately, I married a wonderful woman. One who throughout our married life has probably displayed more patience with my hearing impairment than what I may have deserved. It also helps that she majored in audio/speech therapy in college, and so that's in her favor … and mine.

As for her maintaining patience with me, it's a huge feather in her cap.

After all, even though she's intelligent, good-looking and has more attributes than what there is room here to mention, I sometimes wonder if I subconsciously married her for her hearing. But since this marriage has lasted 41 years, I'm sure there's a lot more involved … like love … on both our parts.

Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com