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Interview with Hal Linden TV Star, "Song & Dance Man", Hearing Aid Wearer

Hal Linden

May 23, 2005

Topic: Hearing Loss Issues
Beck: Hi Mr. Linden. It is an honor to meet you.

Linden: Hi. Dr. Beck. It's nice to meet you too.

Beck: I have really enjoyed your work over the years. There were two phenomenally funny and consistently enjoyable TV shows I watched through high school and college; Barney Miller was one, and M*A*S*H was the other.

Linden: Thanks. It was an honor to work on Barney Miller. It was a lot of fun, we had a tremendous cast and we worked hard.

Beck: I think that aired from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s?

Linden: Yes, it ran from 1975 to 1982.

Beck: And I know it's still very popular on reruns and DVD. Mr. Linden, you've accomplished so many things on stage, TV, and movies...I'd like to briefly mention a few from your bio if that's OK? You've earned three television Emmys and a Tony for your work on Broadway. You started in "the business" as a clarinet player and toured as a singer with several bands. You've been in more than 20 Broadway plays and musicals..."Bells Are Ringing," "On A Clear Day," the "Pajama Game," "Three Men On A Horse," "The Rothchilds," "The Sisters Rosensweig," and "I'm Not Rappaport" to mention just a few.

I know you also served as national chairman of the March of Dimes raising some $75 million as host of its national telethon. You've accomplished a great deal, and brought joy to so many people!

Linden: Thanks Dr. Beck.

Beck: Can I ask ... How did you get involved with the Starkey Gala?

Linden: Well, it's funny you ask. We actually became familiar with Bill Austin because my wife has tinnitus -- ringing in her ears. She was interested in getting a tinnitus masker, and of course, Starkey makes those, along with other hearing products. So while we were here taking care of her, I thought I'd like to get a hearing test. I hadn't really noticed that I had a hearing problem. I just thought most people had given up on speaking clearly. So when I learned that it was actually me with the problem, I wanted to see what I could do to hear better. Bill Austin made me a pair of Starkey hearing aids. That was probably three years ago. And whenever I wear them, the world is much easier to hear!

Beck: Have you noticed changes in the sound tracks of movies over the years?

Linden: Definitely. Years ago, they actually kept the volume down quite a bit. If things got too loud you heard "popping" on the sound track and it was distracting and sounded kind of crummy. But with the technology today, the music and the sound tracks are very loud. The quality of the sound is fantastic, but it really is much too loud in most theaters.

Beck: Yes, I agree -- that's a common complaint and a very good observation. And as an audiologist, I feel very confident saying movie theaters are indeed way too loud, and many of them are contributing to temporary and permanent changes in hearing, feelings or ear fullness and even tinnitus....but that's a discussion for another day! What about television? Have you noticed changes there too?

Linden: I've noticed that on some of the commercial "voice overs" I've done, often times the background music is so loud, you can hardly hear the voice! The audio technicians seem to really be mixing the background too loud.

Beck: Yes, you're right....that's referred to as "signal-to-noise" ratio, and it has less to do with the overall loudness, and more to do with the loudness difference between the primary voice and the loudness of the background noise, such as the music, or the other people speaking. One other point regarding television sound....although I've never personally measured it, many people have told me that commercials are indeed broadcast to the viewers louder than the program itself.

Linden: And that's a real problem because when you turn up the volume to clearly hear what the person is saying, all start to hear the background and the commercials and it's very annoying.

Beck: I agree. The ideal situation for maximal speech perception is about 25 to 30 decibels between the signal and the noise, but I would bet that's very rare on TV and film these days.

Linden: That really is an issue for so many people. Noise can do a lot of damage, and often the music and film industries will jack up the sound so loud that it's uncomfortable for people, and as you said a few moments ago, the sound can do damage to the audience too, and I'll bet most of them never know their hearing is being damaged by their recreational activities!

Beck: That's exactly right. There's no doubt -- listening to loud noise, music, movies, motorcycles, cars, industrial sounds, weapons...all of these things can and will cause hearing loss given enough the right opportunity. Mr. Linden, I'd like to learn a little more about your experience with hearing aids if I may?

Linden: Sure. Well the bottom line is that I need hearing aids and when I wear them they are very comfortable. The hearing aids have different programs which I can easily switch in and out of. One setting allows me to hear the orchestra, which usually originated behind me while I sang on stage - and that is fabulous. I wish I had that years ago! Now we use stage monitors, so I get fairly good sound across the stage, but in the old days, the sounds were quite variable, and it was hard to hear the orchestra as one walked across the stage. Another hearing aid setting reduces background noise in noisy environments, like cocktail parties and restaurants. The Starkey hearing aids are excellent, and I am very pleased with them.

Beck: OK, well that pretty much says it all. Thank you so much for your time and thoughts Mr. Linden.

Linden: Thank you too, Dr. Beck, and thanks to Bill Austin for the fine work he does and the products he creates.


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Hal Linden

TV Star, “Song & Dance Man”, Hearing Aid Wearer