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by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter Can't Tune Out Mother's Habitual Humming

DEAR ABBY: My mother, who is 80 years old, hums her own made-up tunes. She has done it for as long as I can remember, but for the last few years, the frequency and intensity has increased. She does wear a hearing aid in one ear and sees her audiologist regularly. I have asked others, who say people with hearing problems often hum to fill the empty space caused by the hearing loss.

My problem is that her constant humming is so annoying it is negatively affecting my relationship with her. I have treaded lightly on the subject with her to be sure she's aware that others can hear her, in case she was thinking they couldn't.

Mom said that once someone asked her if she was talking to herself, and she replied that she was singing to herself. My personal opinion is that it may be a soothing mechanism for her when she feels awkward during a conversation. She may feel that her humming replaces talking yet makes her feel included in the conversation.

I don't want to cause hurt feelings or add to her discomfort. She's shy by nature, but has come a long way in her confidence. Advice? -- TUNING OUT IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR TUNING OUT: The first thing you should do is ask your mother to tune the humming down because it bothers you. If she doesn't, then discuss it with her audiologist. If you don't get the answers you need there, consult her physician. What she's doing may be common -- or not. But you need to get your questions answered by someone who knows your mother and is close enough to evaluate her.

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