Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A
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Have you ever been in a social setting where you are struggling to understand or keep up with the conversation? If so, how did you navigate the interaction? A common strategy that people often use in this context is pretending to hear. This looks like nodding your head or giving verbal cues that you are following along. Pretending to hear feels like an easy way to deal with the hearing challenges you are experiencing in the moment but is not a sustainable strategy! It can lead to miscommunication, stress, and tension during social interactions. Conversations can become even more difficult to engage in, contributing to anxiety and unpleasant experiences. Rather than pretending to hear, it is important to advocate for your hearing needs which supports effective communication!

Impact of Pretending to Hear

People with and without hearing loss can have a hard time asking others to repeat themselves. We often do not want to interrupt the speaker and think of asking for clarification as an inconvenience. But not understanding what is being communicated can really affect the conversation. Pretending to hear limits your participation in the conversation, how you are able to respond, and the depth of conversation you can have. It can also be stressful to move through a conversation you are not completely understanding. 

Also, missing pieces of information can be a consequence of pretending to hear. This can lead to major effects including impacting your job performance. Not hearing critical information about assignments or projects can cause you to miss deadlines or produce incomplete work. This impacts relationships with coworkers, clients, supervisors etc. In addition to the relationships in the workplace, pretending to hear can strain relationships with family and friends. Pretending to hear your way through important conversations with others is noticeable. Others may think you aren’t fully present, are ignoring them, or not interested in what they are saying. This can erode trust and intimacy between people, producing strain in these relationships. 

Treating Hearing Loss 

Pretending to hear is a common symptom that indicates hearing loss so seeking treatment is incredibly important. The first step is simple: schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Hearing tests involve a relatively quick and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any impairment, the degree of hearing loss, and specific type that you are experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider is able to make recommendations that will effectively meet those needs. 

The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This provides significant support, maximizing hearing across all settings. Hearing aids transform hearing and communication. They alleviate symptoms, allowing people to navigate conversations and social spaces much more easily. People are better able to hear, understand, and respond which strengthens communication. This provides countless benefits including improving relationships, enriching social life, and enhancing overall health and wellness! 

Tips for Effective Communication

In addition to treating hearing loss and wearing hearing aids, there are numerous strategies you can use (and share with others) to best maximize your hearing. This includes the following: 

  • Reduce background noise: turning off any electronic devices like TV, rolling up windows if you are in a car, avoiding multitasking etc. are useful ways to reduce background noise which can be distracting. 
  • Avoid noisy settings: avoid noisier settings like restaurants and cafes during peak hours which can make it more challenging to hear. 
  • Face the speaker: this allows you to have access to nonverbal cues that help you follow the conversation — reading lips, facial expressions, and other movements that provide more context. 
  • Rephrase vs. repeat: ask others to rephrase rather than repeat using the exact same words. You may have difficulty processing specific types of sounds so rephrasing is a good way to address this. 

In addition to these strategies, it is helpful to communicate your hearing needs with others. This allows you to share specific strategies that better support you with engaging in conversation. It also invites others to make conversations more accessible which prevents all of the work from falling on you! Sharing your needs is a great way to advocate for yourself and create the conditions for effective communication! 

If you have any questions about your hearing or are interested in setting up a hearing test, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more.