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Dear Annie: I have a friend who talks very loudly. It's quite annoying and irritating. She's so loud that it sounds as though she's angry or upset. Friends and family members have asked me numerous times why she talks so loudly. I have asked her nicely a million times to lower her voice. Soon after telling her, the volume goes back up, even when she is sitting right next to me. What is surprising is that she does not realize how loudly she talks. This person had her hearing tested about a year ago as part of a routine medical checkup, and her hearing was considered normal for her age. She tells me that she has been talking loudly all her life and gets annoyed when asked to lower the volume. Why is it that she cannot lower her voice even when she's been asked politely? Can such a nasty habit be changed? Would a speech therapist help? Do breathing exercises exist that could help her lower her voice? Could it be that she has some unknown medical problem? It's come to the point that I cannot stand it anymore and this bad habit is hurting our friendship. -- Loudness Sufferer

Dear Loudness Sufferer: Perhaps she was born with large vocal cords or is suffering a subtler form of hearing loss not detected in basic tests. (You might encourage her to see a specialist to rule that out.) Whatever the reason for her loud talking, her worse habit is refusing to hear her friends. Before it totally ruins the friendship, let her know how it hurts your feelings when she disregards your pleas.

Dear Annie: I bet you haven't heard this one before. My husband has narcolepsy. His assessment at the sleep clinic indicated that he goes into REM sleep instantly.

He usually stays up until almost 2 in the morning and often gets up at 6. Unfortunately, I am unable to fall into a deep sleep until he comes to bed, because I know his getting in bed will cause a stir and wake me up. The problem is I am barely functioning -- and it causes fights when I try to get him to come to bed at a reasonable time. I adapted when I was younger, but as I've gotten older, it's been much more difficult. I realize that this is my problem -- even though if he slept more, it would probably have a beneficial effect for him, too. (He has a lot of health issues.) I don't know how to cope anymore. -- Sleepless in Spokane

Dear Sleepless in Spokane: These days, many couples sleep in separate bedrooms, and I'm not talking about unhappy couples. In fact, these are very happy couples -- because both partners are able to get a good night's rest, even if they have different sleeping habits.

If you don't have a spare bedroom, consider getting two twin beds. I've heard from many readers who have solved sleeping differences with spouses this way. One can get into bed without worrying that the rustling of covers and shifting of the mattress will wake the sleeping partner.

Though sleeping in separate beds might not be how you always pictured a happy marriage, what's really important is that you cherish your waking hours together.

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Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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