Originally Aired: March 14, 2017
EPISODE 5: Turning the volume on.
PAM: You probably didn’t realize how big an issue this was going to be going in, you though you did and you had the best intentions. And I’ve got to hand it to you, you said, you know…I’m doing this, but you didn’t realize all the implications and ramifications.
JON: True that.
PAM: True that [Laughing].
IN THIS EPISODE WE FIRST HEAR FROM JON AND PAM. THEY’VE BEEN MARRIED 23 YEARS. PAM DEVELOPED SEVERE SENSORY HEARING LOSS WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD. IN 2009, AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OF RESEARCH, PAM MADE THE TRANSFORMATIVE DECISION TO RECEIVE A COCHLEAR IMPLANT.
SINCE THEN, HOW THEY RELATE TO EACH OTHER HAS SHIFTED. THEIR MANNER OF COMMUNICATION AND HOW THEY TALK TO EACH OTHER HAS CHANGED.
ALSO IN TODAY’S EPISODE, WE TALK WITH ERIN BOSIK. SHE IS A COPYWRITER AND BRANDING PROFESSIONAL WHO USES LANGUAGE TO HELP COMPANIES TELL THEIR STORIES.
ERIN: I think advertising and those types of brands that have the lover personality are tending to try to evoke something and get you to feel in lust with it. You kind of have to have that cache of being wanted and being desirable and not being easy to get.
MY NAME IS ANDY HORNING, AND THIS IS ELEPHANT TALK. IT’S ABOUT ALL THINGS RELATIONSHIP – THE SOULFUL, THE SILLY AND THE SEXY.
JON One of the earliest memories of our courtship – I do have this memory of maybe walking through the Village with you and we are going to some restaurant on Bleecker Street and I knew that you had, you know, hearing loss and when you didn’t understand or didn’t hear something that I said, you know, I moved my mouth closer to your ear as if- you know repeating and again closer to your ear was going to help you but that obviously wasn’t the thing to do.
PAM No you needed to move within view so I could lip-read.
PAM Very early on in my schooling, it might’ve been in first grade and yeah, I sat down for the hearing test. All the little kids had hearing tests, and I was waiting for it to begin. End of story [Laughing] I was just sitting there waiting for it to begin.
ANDY A FEW YEARS LATER, PAM’S FATHER TOOK HER TO A SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF FOR MORE TESTING.
PAM I was terrified because all the little kids in that school were severely impaired, the hearing aids were body aids you know like a box, and the kids would wear it, I guess for the teachers’ benefit, would wear little harnesses and would have either one or two of those boxes and with the wires disconnected to their hearing aids and I was terrified by this and terrified that I would have to go to school there. It was very distressing experience.
JON You didn’t want to wear one.
PAM No I didn’t want to wear one but also my parents were told that there were no hearing aids that would help with my particular type of hearing loss at that time. So I was not prescribed the hearing aid until much, much later when I was in high school.
JON A lot of people have been entertained by the fact that I’m a sound guy, you know a radio journalist and I ended up with someone who really can’t listen to the radio. You do listen to my stories now and then if I have a completely transcribed script.
PAM And I hear a lot better post-cochlear implant. I can hear a lot more what is going on.
JON The funny thing about you after the cochlear implant is that not only can you hear what’s going on, you know, when I’m speaking on the phone in my office and previously before the cochlear implant you couldn’t really understand what I was talking about when I was on the phone but now…
PAM You have no privacy [Laughing].
JON I have no privacy and I’ll be talking to someone on the phone and you pipe up, ‘What did you say?’ or ‘Is that… who are you talking to?’
PAM ‘That’s not true’ [Laughter] ‘Why are you mentioning me?’
JON Right. Right.
I think it’s remarkable that when you went to get the cochlear implant in 2009 and you’re age fifty-seven?
JON You did a lot of investigation into whether you should have the cochlear implant, you took a year to research it.
PAM I took about two years, I totally dragged my feet, I was totally uncertain whether to get this.
ANDY THE FIRST PROCEDURE FOR RECEIVING A COCHLEAR IMPLANT IS TO SURGICALLY IMPLANT ELECTRODES UNDER THE SKIN BEHIND THE EAR. SEVERAL WEEKS LATER, A SPEECH PROCESSOR IS PLACED OUTSIDE THE EAR. THEN, THE PROCESSOR IS ACTIVATED. IT’S TURNED ON.
PAM The very first sounds I heard was- was this almost musical sound it almost sounded like offbeat science fiction music, it’s hard to describe and it was sort of scrambled and weird sounding and then it was on.
JON And then you could hear people talking?
PAM Absolutely. A lot of people who- who get cochlear implants do not understand right away, they- it takes them a while to understand, for me I could understand right away.
PAM I knew that this was going to work, I didn’t know how well it was going to work;
ANDY Like, now, what’s different? Like saying ‘I love you’? You couldn’t whisper in her ear or – ?
PAM He still can’t whisper in my ear [Laughter].
JON I don’t consistently do what I used to do which was always make sure that you had line up sight vision to lip read me; I know that you can understand without lip reading me sometimes, most of the time.
PAM True, yes. Sometimes if we’re arguing over something, very occasionally I’d say ‘You know, I can hear you anyhow. I can be doing this and still hear you.’
PAM You don’t have to be in my line of sight – but then… you sometimes get a little complacent about it and you just assume I can hear everything. If I’m washing dishes, the water is running, if you’re washing dishes and water is running, is a great example because that happens frequently. Yeah, I still can hear over that. I mean there’s a limit to the miracle; it is a miracle but there’s a limit to it. I think you’ve gotten very used to me hearing so much better than I used to and you sometimes almost might wonder ‘Oh, come on! Are you faking? You really can hear me.’ You know, sometimes I think you must be thinking that.
JON Not that I- not that I remember, I…
PAM That’s a common- a common response that hearing people have to hard of hearing people. You can hear when you want to hear.
JON You know what I think happened after the cochlear implant? Your hearing became so much better that every now and then, if you like struggle to hear something, I would become impatient because, you know, I got it in my head that you- you know, you can hear great now, why didn’t you understand what I’ve just said?
JON I am kind of amazed that after being married for more than twenty three years, I still get frustrated by the need to repeat things that you haven’t heard and you have told me about this dynamic that people with hearing loss are in engaged in, which is pretending that they heard something because they’re just tired and they don’t have the patience for feeling…
JON …bad about needing to have things repeated and I’m still amazed that after all these years I still get frustrated and… you know, every now and then you and I do have fights over this. You know, sometimes I think Kalish, don’t you ever learn?’ you know?
PAM You know, I spent a lot of my childhood pretending I could hear things when I couldn’t to the extent, and sometimes my friends would say to me ‘Ok, Pammy, what did I just say?’ And sometimes I couldn’t, you know, I was just pretending, just wanted to get along with everyone, didn’t want to stand out, I didn’t want to make a big deal, didn’t want to make anybody mad at me and I will admit that there are still sometimes when I do that with you [Laughter].
PAM Sometimes, I just feel I don’t want to get into this right now. I don’t want to make him repeat something, he’s getting a little frustrated at me, maybe you’re in a bad mood about something and I just don’t want to bug you and I won’t ask you to repeat something that I have not completely heard or maybe partially heard, but not completely.
JON I’ve just remembered two things post-implant when you go to bed, you take off the cochlear implant, and you take out the hearing aid.
PAM I take off the –
JON The processor.
JON And you take the hearing aid out.
PAM Yes, I wear a hearing aid in my other ear which I take out, yes.
JON And once you’ve done that, you’re pretty darn deaf.
PAM Yes, I am [Laughter].
JON One thing that you do-
PAM It’s nice and quiet, even on 27th street [Laughter].
JON Yeah, no, no, that’s- that’s- that’s a good point because we’ll be in bed, we’ve gone to sleep, we’ve gone to be, we’re trying to fall asleep, the lights are out and… all hell is breaking loose in the vacant lot outside our window, like one time a dude jumped out the seventh floor window and committed suicide.
PAM Oh, God!
JON You know, gave this death, curling howl and of course you didn’t- you didn’t hear any of it or… you know, one other time there would be a fight, I get up and call the police or… and you’re… often startled!
PAM Yeah! Like ‘what’s going on? What’s happening?’
JON And I- I of course can’t really explain to you what’s going on because you’ve got all your hearing apparatus out and…
PAM And it’s dark.
JON And it’s dark and you can’t lip read me.
JON There’s this other dynamic that takes place after we go to bed which is [Laughter] you do – if something is frustrating you or you’re upset about something, you will start talking about it when we’re in bed, the lights are out, you can’t hear a thing I’m going to say in response…
JON …and I’m always like ‘why- why are you, like, initiating this discussion now, which is not a discussion, is like a soliloquy?’ Right? That’s what I say.
PAM I don’t know! There must be something about pillow talk, you know? That transcends the idea of having to have somebody actually talk to you.
JON Right, right.
PAM Answer you, I don’t know. I certainly don’t think of you as my captive audience but maybe I should.
JON And then there are times when you’re upset about something, I’m upset about something and these conversations in the dark, in bed begin and I will insist ‘All right! I’m turning the light on, put on your processor, put on your hearing aid.’
PAM Yeah, that has happened on occasion.
JON I think it’s been reassuring to look back on how we’ve grappled with this over the years, and, it’s been a little bumpy, and, we’ve been angry from time to time. But, I do think we’ve learned, and, made a real effort to work this all out.
PAM I think the surprising thing, actually, probably to both of us, is that it’s never fully worked out. It’s not something that you can say, okay, this is solved, this is taken care of, we have all the answers to this. It’s no longer a problem. Just because, even knowing as much technology as we do and the dynamics of hearing loss as we do, and being as well informed as both of us are – in particular, me from the hearing loss side and you from your side of being an audio person, audio producer, radio person – we still don’t have all the answers. Or, we’ll have the answers and we’ll ignore them and we’ll go ahead and be angry, bummed out, pissed off sometimes. Even though we know what we should be doing.
JON What I want to say to anyone who’s involved in a relationship who’s a hearing person, if you’re a hearing person –
PAM Just get out! [Laugh] As fast as you can!
JON No! If you’re a hearing person and you’re person is deaf or has hearing loss and you’ve been together for years and years, and you’re still struggling with maintaining patience over the need to repeat things, you need to do what I try to do in those moments, which is, just have this little silent conversation with yourself in which you say, you know, it’s not her fault. The least you can do is to accommodate her and say it again, and make the effort. Because, you owe it to her.
EVERY RELATIONSHIP IS FULL OF STORIES. JON AND PAM HAVE STORIES WITH CONFLICT AND TRANSFORMATION. THEY’RE ALSO NOT AFRAID TO ADMIT THAT MARRIAGE IS HARD. BUT, THEY CONTINUE TO PROVE THAT BY MAKING THE EFFORT TO DO THE WORK – LOVE WINS.
ERIN BOSIK IS A CREATOR OF STORIES FOR COMPANIES. SHE UNDERSTANDS HOW TO IDENTIFY A BRAND’S NEED AND IDENTITY. THEN USES THE ART FORM OF STORYTELLING TO DEVELOP A BRAND’S MESSAGE.
ANDY Where does sex or love get woven into any other work that you do? I was thinking about food and lust.
ERIN In a lot of the branding and positioning work that I do, there are identities that different brands have and I use, like, an archetype style of exercise. And there are those lover brands like Dove soap or like Godiva chocolate or Porsche that have this really luscious kind of sexy tone of voice.
ERIN Using words and a cadence in the language that is meant to tempt. For a lover brand the language would be a lot more “luscious chocolate, temptation, sweet, mouthwatering,” like that kind of stuff, “sensual,” things like that whereas another brand that might be the same product, let’s say, a playful or a jester brand might be talking about “pops of delight” or, you know, things like that where it might be “dark seduction”
ANDY I see.
ERIN Those types of brands that have the lover personality are tending to try to…
ERIN …Evoke something and get you to feel in lust with it or, get you to fall into some kind of trance with it a little bit more than kind of just thinking of it as this little treat.
ERIN So within the lover brand there is hedonist brand. There is romantic brands. You kind of have to have that cache of being wanted and being desirable and not being easy to get quite as easy to get.
ERIN When I think of a Hershey’s versus a Godiva, you think of Hershey’s as behind this very fun, approachable brand, and Godiva is also approachable, but it has much more sensuality to it. It has a lot more depth and wave and kind of cadence of, like, a heartbeat whereas they would think of, you know, falling in love and dreaming in chocolate and all that kind of stuff whereas Hershey’s is a lot more, like…
ANDY Fun. Yeah, right.
ERIN “Chocolate Land” and, like you know, Willy Wonka kind of feel.
ANDY Can you have a brand that reflects the complicated nature of relationship?. I mean, the very essence of branding is that you bring it down to a very simple thing. But you know, relationships are complicated. You’re married – it’s hard at times.
ANDY You want to, you know, you hate your partner at times and you love them. Is that how you find relationship? Do you experience it in all its forms? Are you guys totally in love?
ERIN We’re totally…
ANDY All the time.
ERIN We’re mostly in love most of the time. I’m very lucky.
ERIN Every relationship has its challenges, and I think every brand is striving. People are kind of talking, like, in the industry about not having necessarily people who like your brand. It’s sort of moving from this idea of having brand fans, which is, like, I think that idea sort of came in through social media and, like, you want more likes, like, that’s what you want. You want people to like your brand and like to be fans. But it’s now they want people to be brand participants.
ANDY More engagement.
ERIN Into more engagement, like, more deep engagement. We’re becoming so desensitized to media that brands are having to be a much more creative in a way to make any kind of genuine or meaningful connection…
ANDY Impact, because…
ERIN …With people.
ERIN People are smarter in terms of knowing…
ANDY Being manipulated.
ERIN Brands are going through this kind of transition into more experiential…into a more experiential space, which I think is going to open up the door to have brands be more of a relationship with people than just a functional, transactional part of their day.
ANDY If you’re ready to engage in a perfect marriage and totally in love, there’s lots of dialogue out there, images and words out there that reflect that back to you. If you want to go to the other extreme around ‘I can’t stand my partner. We’re ready to get divorced. I’m going to end this relationship and break out’, there’s lots of language in media. But if you’re in this rich middle ground of ‘I want more from my relationship, but I’m struggling to find it. I’m happy. I don’t want to get divorced. There’s not much out there in terms of language and images to reflect that. There is the dialogue out there around ‘This is as good as it gets.’
ANDY How would you brand or market and what kind of language would you use around, ‘Yes, relationship holds this potential and it’s complicated at times, and you’ve got to continue to show up every day and practice.’
ERIN When I think about that of this idea of, like, the in-between space that you described. There’s this idea of being perfectly imperfect. It’s a lot of it in the natural and organic space, so people are like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want granola bars that look like perfectly cookie cutter with this on top and I also don’t want something that looks so homemade that I don’t know if it’s safe.’ And so, there are these brands that are kind of in the in-between space.
ANDY We have that middle ground.
ERIN A lot of people are also touting this idea of, like, human interaction with it, like, ‘Not made one hundred percent by machines. But we have safety standards. We’re a legitimate brand.
ERIN There’s a brand that I worked on. It used to be called “Boulder Soup Works.” It’s called “Boulder Organics!” now. They have their refrigerated soups. And they told a story at the very beginning that one of their customers called and was actually happy because they found a rock in their potato and they were, like, kind of happy about it…
ANDY Because that meant…
ERIN …Because they found it from the earth, like, it was from the earth – this is a real potato! It was long before they’ve become, like, a much bigger organization, because I don’t think that that would happen again. But people get really attached to that idea of, like, ‘You’re just trying to do your job too and I really like that, you know? Like, you were trying to, yeah, not be apathetic, but not be perfect.’
ANDY Right. Right.
ERIN Because perfection is just, like, nobody…I don’t even think that people want to be perfect anymore.
ANDY Yeah, thank God.
ERIN Like, I think it’s actually really unappealing to people in terms of a brand being, like, so buttoned up that they’re, you know, it’s no fun anymore.
ANDY You said “real” a couple of times in that in explaining it and I think that’s one of the words that we’ve come upon, is “real” which allows for all of it, all of it, the perfect parts and the imperfect parts.
ERIN I think “real” and “authentic” and “tangible” and “palpable” and words like that where you actually think it has some kind of sensory meaning. ‘I can see this. I can feel this. I can touch this.’ I think most brands are kind of starting to move in that direction of wanting to be seen as real whereas I think in the past there was a lot of cover up. Now that all these kind of things are coming out about how important it is to be eating healthier and, like, what it means to read labels and things like that.
ERIN Brands are starting to, like, value transparency in a much different way, which I think in relationships, that’s where that kind of middle ground starts to get shaky. It’s like as soon as you start being really honest with each other, that’s where it starts to be more real and, like, less transactional and more connective and more intimate.
ANDY We could use the food model as a model for us, as a way of helping us message our own work.
ERIN It’s just this idea that, like, brands just as much as relationships and, you know, couples, they need to find that right match, you know, because, like, sometimes when I come in with brands and they’re like, ‘We just want to be approachable. We want everybody. Like, we want everybody to feel welcome in our brand,’ and it’s like, ‘Okay, fair enough, but, like, you’re not going to win trying to be everything to everyone. You need to pick something that really makes you different, because everything is out there.
ANDY So let’s do a little word association since you’re so good at that. Ready? I’ll say a word and you just say what comes to your mind. Love.
ERIN My husband. [Laughter]
ERIN Like, hedonistic…carnal, raw…visual, visceral, tactile…passionate.
ANDY Holding hands.
ERIN Sweet, caring, connected…relationship, trust, bond, honesty.
ANDY Couples fighting.
ERIN Rage, screaming, loud, honest…difficult, necessary…real.
ANDY Romantic love.
ERIN Unicorns, puppy dogs…running through fields of rainbows…idealistic…curious…
ANDY Real love.
ERIN Unashamed…realistic, relatable, unapologetic, unorthodox…craveable, desired…not what it seems.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ERIN BOSIK AND HER WORK WITH WORDS IN BRANDING AND WRITING, VISIT ERINBOSIK.COM
THANK YOU TO JON AND PAM KALISH. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COCHLEAR IMPLANTS AND HEARING LOSS, VISIT THE HEARING LOSS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA AT HEARINGLOSS.ORG. TO HEAR AND READ STORIES BY JON KALISH, VISIT KALISH.NYC.
OUR PRODUCERS ARE LISA GRAY AND KIM POLETTI. OUR THEME MUSIC IS BY ROB BURGER. ADDITIONAL MUSIC WAS BY JOEY FEHRENBACH, TIMOTHY VAJDA (VI-DA), MANELI JAMAL, AND REZA MANZOORI. AUDIO PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY LESLIE GASTON-BIRD AND JOSH KERN.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE YOUR STORY OR COMMENTS, BE A PART OF THE CONVERSATION, OR BECOME A SPONSOR, VISIT US AT ELEPHANTTALK.ORG. SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST ON ITUNES, STITCHER, SOUNDCLOUD, OR WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCAST. AND THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.
I’M YOUR HOST ANDY HORNING. THIS IS REAL LOVE. THIS IS ELEPHANT TALK.