When “Rebooting” Means Grabbing the Galoshes

I accompanied my 89-year-old father to the hearing aid center yesterday. He had just gotten hearing aids and needed instruction on how to use them.

The doctor, around age 50, told my father that a tiny button on his new hearing aid would "reboot" it. My father looked at the doctor, dumbfounded. Was he hearing incorrectly? "Reboot" a hearing aid?

My father is of the age and experience that "rebooting" means putting on your galoshes, or boots, again.

When I explained that my father did not use a computer, the doctor smiled and tried again. He told my father that the tiny hearing aid button would reset the hearing aid back to its original settings. That made perfect sense to all of us.  

Know your audience!

Syntax Training


  1. I try to figure out how any statement can be misinterpreted – usually by analyzing the literal meaning(s) of the words. For me, this is moderately entertaining (the fact that it sometimes annoys others is merely a side benefit). Such analysis does, however, reduce communications errors. Here are some tips for honing skills in this area (I’m sure others will follow):
    – Learn (or at least get some exposure to) another language. This will build empathy for those that don’t share your life experiences or your native language. You will become more aware of words and phrases that are sometimes misinterpreted.
    – Host an exchange student. We’ve hosted about twenty of them and we quickly discover everyday terms that trip them up. (I’m not going to recommend international adoption for everybody, but our two Ethiopian sons remind me to think about what I say.)
    – Continue to read this blog. Spending a few minutes thinking about communications a couple times a week helps keep us sharp.
    Thank you, Lynn, for this resource. I hope your father gets good use from his hearing aids for a long time.

  2. thanks Lynn. i’ve found your blog recently and enjoy reading it so much.

    English is not my mother tongue and i am always confused about the using of “the”. May i ask you a question, you wrote: “He had just gotten hearing aids and needed instruction on how to use them.” Why don’t you put “the” in front of “hearing aids”?

    pls allow me to ask one more question- you wrote”The doctor, around age 50, told my father … “. Sometimes i see “aged 50”, so when should i use age but not “aged”?

    I will be grateful for any help you can provide. 🙂

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