Why Pretending to Hear Doesn't Help

Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help

Dr. Marina E. Kade Communication, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Dr. Marina E. Kade

Whether you have normal hearing or not – we’ve all been there. It’s that panicked moment when we can’t hear or understand the conversation, while it seems that everyone else is having no trouble at all. From time to time, it’s okay to smile, nod, and pretend to understand a conversation – especially with strangers in noisy environments such as concerts or at train stations. Pretending to hear becomes an issue when we feel like it’s been happening all too often, when it interferes with our social lives or work productivity, or when our pretending causes misunderstandings with our communication partner.

We need to remember that everyone – including those with “perfect” hearing – pretends to hear sometimes. Think about how often you are pretending. Is it happening more than it used to? Is it happening in places that don’t seem extra noisy?

Why do we pretend to hear?

Most of us pretend to hear for similar reasons. Sometimes, we don’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation, sometimes we feel like a burden, and sometimes we are too embarrassed to admit that we didn’t hear. The reason we pretend to hear is less important than how often or severely we do it. Indeed, if you pretend to hear regularly, you know it is ineffective. 

We need to remember that those who are speaking to us are doing so because they want you to hear whatever they say. With this in mind, read on for some strategies to recognize when you are pretending to hear and know what to do about it.

Know your triggers

Pretending to hear is a bad habit, and like all bad habits, the first step in breaking it is knowing its triggers. For Gianluca Trombetta, an inspirational speaker with hearing loss, his trigger occurs when he struggles to hear a speaker and feels like everyone else in the room understands everything perfectly. 

You need to understand your particular trigger. Perhaps your trigger is when a vital conversation occurs, or your communication partner is emotional or passionate. Start to notice when you begin pretending to hear for the next 48 hours to see if you can identify a pattern. Once you know your trigger, you’ll know when to employ the following strategies to stop pretending to hear.

Change your habit

Next time you can’t hear, try doing something constructive rather than pretending you understand. One of the most effective strategies involves saying a predetermined and scripted statement. The statement should briefly mention your hearing loss (if the people you are communicating with do not already know about it), mention how you are struggling, and offer a solution to the issue. Your solution should be more permanent than the temporary, “could you please repeat that”?

For example, the speaker mentioned above, Gianluca Trombetta, gave the following example of when a softer-spoken co-worker was leading a discussion at work. He knew he struggled to hear this co-worker’s voice, so he wrote a script for if this happened. He immediately jumped into his script when he realized he had difficulty hearing:

“I’m sorry to interrupt Jean, but I can’t hear well from down here, and I don’t want to miss this. Do you mind swapping seats, Rob? I’m sure I’ll hear better if I’m sitting closer.” 

In two simple sentences, Gianluca mentioned how he was struggling and gave a more permanent solution to the issue. Gianluca’s co-workers were happy to accommodate because they wanted him to be able to hear the message she was sending – and so will the people in his life.

Other examples of scripts you could use include:

“I have hearing loss, so I missed the start of what you said. Could you say that again from the beginning?”

“I have hearing loss, so I didn’t quite catch that. Could you rephrase what you just said?” 

Have you been struggling to hear? Schedule a hearing test and consultation with us today! You don’t have to live with untreated hearing loss.