man trying to hear, using hand

Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help

In Hearing Health by Dr. Jason Leyendecker

Dr. Jason Leyendecker
Latest posts by Dr. Jason Leyendecker (see all)

In noisy or busy settings just about everyone pretends to hear what someone has said when they just can’t make it out. Sure, you could always stop the conversation to ask someone to repeat themselves, but often people choose to pretend to hear, for fear of seeming rude. For people with hearing loss, this can become a serious issue. It is not just now and then that you struggle to hear what people have said, but a regular occurrence. This can lead you to pretending far too much and can have negative consequences for your relationships at work, with friends, at home and even with your significant other. 

The Dangers of Pretending to Hear

When you have hearing loss, some people will be harder to hear than others. For instance, people with higher pitched voices, or those in the lower range depending on the tones that you struggle with can be just out of your range. This can lead you to feel as if you are missing every couple words they are saying. You may have asked them to repeat something every now and then, but due to the frequency of your confusion, it may be tempting to just nod along and pretend you know what they are saying to you. The problems with this will present themselves all too quickly. 

For one thing, no matter how good you are at pretending, it’s likely that people will come to suspect that you are not hearing everything they are saying. They may feel as if you are disinterested in what they are saying to you or not paying attention at all. In work settings, this can add up to coworkers and employers relying on you less which can add up into lost promotions and raises. Between friends and loved ones, this can add up into feelings of loneliness and resentment which can fester for years, creating rifts in your longest and closest relationships.

Asking for Accommodations

One of the most difficult environments for just about anyone to hear is in a noisy or crowded room. With hearing loss however, there is an added challenge. It can be difficult for the brain to separate the conversation you are trying to hear from others. This is called the prioritization of sound and it will take work on your end as well as the people you are speaking to, to hear better in these loud situations.

Letting people know you have a hearing loss is the best solution when you feel like you just can’t hear what they are saying. This allows you to ask for accommodations to help you hear what they are saying. This can be as simple as requesting ” Please speak a little slower—it helps with my hearing loss.” Other people find success in asking people to maintain eye contact to aid in visual cues when hearing loss is present in noisy or quiet situations alike. In addition, making sure to enunciate words and take pauses at the end of sentences may be the extra support you need to feel more confident and improve understanding.

When you ask for accommodations from coworkers, friends, and family, you’ll find that conversations will likely move more smoothly, and feel more included as well.

Addressing a Hearing Loss

One of the greatest hurdles for people with hearing loss when asking for accommodations is the fact that they may have no clue at all that they have a hearing loss. This is because hearing loss often develops slowly over years. What starts as the loss of quiet sounds can gradually progress to the point where certain people’s tones can be just out of reach. Meanwhile, your brain rationalizes the loss as it happens in subtle increments, allowing hearing loss to become progressively worse. While you may not realize that your hearing loss has progressed or is present at all, the impact on your relationships will certainly be notable. You may feel lonely even when surrounded by friends and not know exactly why.

This is why we recommend scheduling an annual hearing exam—especially if you are at high risk. For those of us who are 60 or older, have a family history of hearing loss or engage in activities regularly in noisy environments we recommend scheduling a hearing exam with us today. We can find a solution for you to help you stop pretending and take control of the life you love!