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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Many thanks to you, and to Wanda Foster, for promoting closed-captioning to assist hearing-impaired and normal-hearing people while watching television. Many rental videos are also closed-captioned, which has tremendously enhanced my ability to enjoy the top hits.

You referred readers who have difficulty hearing to a physician for a hearing examination. However, please clarify that it is the AUDIOLOGIST who tests for hearing loss, NOT a physician. The audiologist determines whether or not a hearing loss exists, in which part of the ear the damage is located, and whether or not the person is a candidate for a hearing aid. The audiologist selects and fits appropriate hearing aids (and other amplification devices) and assists hearing-impaired individuals and family members to overcome communication breakdowns that occur as a result of hearing loss.

Audiologists are autonomous professionals, have a master's or doctorate degree, have been certified by a national organization, and in most states are licensed to provide audiological and/or hearing aid services to the public.

It may be true that many insurance companies first require a referral from a physician before covering the expense of audiological services, but consumers should be aware that it is the expertise of the audiologist that will gain them hearing help. -- AUDIOLOGIST WITH HEARING LOSS, MESA, ARIZ.

DEAR AUDIOLOGIST: I hear you loud and clear! Thank you for an important message.

P.S. For those who wrote because you are unsure of what closed-captioning is, it appears as dialogue across the bottom of the TV screen, allowing viewers to read what is being said. TV sets manufactured after 1993 have built-in decoders, so if your TV is pre-1993, you may need to purchase a decoder at your local electronics store.

VITAC (Vital Access through Captioning), one of several companies providing closed captioning services, recently sent me some interesting figures: In addition to individuals with hearing impairment, closed-captioning appeals to 45 million people learning English as a second language, 33 million elementary school children learning to read, and 27 million adults trying to improve their literacy.

DEAR ABBY: Recently while dining at a restaurant, my wife and I saw something strange. Another diner lifted her cocktail glass from her paper napkin. She sprinkled salt on the napkin, then did the same thing with her escort's glass and napkin.

We were perplexed by this, but didn't want to bother them to ask. Do you have any idea why someone would do this? -- JUST CURIOUS

DEAR JUST CURIOUS: A cold drink causes the glass to "sweat," and the moisture absorbed by the paper napkin causes the two to stick together. If the dry napkin is first sprinkled with a bit of salt, the glass can be lifted without the soggy napkin clinging to it (and dripping all over the table).

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