Why Pretending to Hear Doesn't Help

Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-AUncategorized

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-A

Over 48 million Americans today suffer from some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. While some of us were born with hearing loss, others developed it later in life. It seems to be the case that, if we live long enough, everyone will have hearing loss at some point: nearly 100% of centenarians are hard of hearing.

The Problem: Pretending to Hear

One thing that we all have in common: we’ve all pretended to hear sometimes even when we couldn’t. In fact, most people with normal hearing have done the same thing. Imagine you’re in conversation with someone. It starts off well enough, but then they begin a monologue about something going on in their life. You can tell they’re passionate about what they’re saying, but you’re only catching bits and pieces.

You ask them once or twice to stop and repeat what they’ve just said, but you can tell this is slowing them down a bit and making it harder for them to keep their train of thought. Soon enough, you decide to leave well enough alone and just let them talk. As they continue, you can tell their passion for what they’re saying has intensified, and now you really don’t want to stop them again, but you’re totally lost. Sound familiar?

Why is it we’re so inclined to pretend to hear when we can’t? Well, it stems from not wanting to be rude. Unfortunately, the moment comes when they ask a question or expect you to say something in response, and they realize you haven’t been keeping up at all. In trying not to be rude, you’ve accomplished the opposite. We’ve all been there.

The Solution: Disclosure and Accommodation

Studies on hearing loss disclosure have determined that there are three main types:

  • Non-Disclosure – You don’t tell the person that you have hearing loss.
  • Basic Disclosure – You tell the person you have hearing loss, but leave it at that.
  • Multipurpose Disclosure – You tell the person you have hearing loss, and also tell them something about how they can help you understand them better.

Unsurprisingly, those who practice multipurpose disclosure are the most satisfied with their method. Multipurpose disclosure is the best way to avoid the embarrassment of getting caught pretending to hear, not to mention to enjoy conversations more whenever you have them!

It’s not just for one-on-one conversation, either, but for every situation in which a little accommodation could help you better understand what’s being said or presented.

For example, if you’re having trouble in a one-on-one conversation, you might say, “I’m a little hard of hearing. Could you speak a little louder and put a little extra space between your words?” If you’re having trouble hearing a presentation at work, you could speak up and ask to switch seats with someone who is a little closer to the sound source. Once people understand what you need in order to hear properly, you’ll find that most people will consider your needs in advance without you needing to restate them.

The Best Solution: Hearing Aids

Most importantly, if you’re not wearing hearing aids, you should get your hearing tested and get a set as soon as possible. Listening is a skill, and the longer you train your brain not to listen to other people, the harder it will be to regain the ability when you finally do start wearing hearing aids. In fact, as hearing loss progresses and speech goes unrecognized, the auditory cortex in our brain, the part that interprets speech, will actually atrophy. While it can be regained with effort once you start wearing hearing aids, why not just start wearing hearing aids when you need them and avoid the problem in the first place? Untreated hearing loss and the associated brain atrophy is also tied to memory issues, so you’re literally letting parts of your life experience slip away while you put off getting hearing aids.

Hearing aids today are technical marvels, smaller and more powerful than ever. Sophisticated DSP (Digital Signal Processing) allows them to separate speech from background noise, which can in some noisier environments actually increase your speech recognition to better than normal. Imagine being able to follow a conversation not only as well as you used to, but better than you ever have!

Make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to keep you in the conversation!