This may be a familiar scene to you; you are out with a group of friends, and you start chatting with someone you haven’t met before. The conversations going on next to you are quite loud and there may be music on louder than it needs to be. Once your conversation starts, you are comfortable as you hear the basics such as their name and where they are from, but when the speaker goes to lengthier, more detailed information, you begin to lose context. The music and surrounding conversations creep into your ears and take over the voice of the person right across from you.
Unfortunately, you don’t do anything about it. You let the person go along speaking, missing some key details because we don’t let the other person know, we just can’t hear them.
Why do we pretend to hear?
The easy answer is, we are just too polite. After having had no problem in the very beginning of the conversation, we see the other person talking as offering up information they are comfortable sharing. When we can’t hear every detail, we feel bad to interrupt and we just don’t want to be rude. Maybe we don’t want to draw attention to whether or not we have a hearing problem.
Surprisingly, this isn’t entirely uncommon. Everyone at some point has pretended they have heard the other person saying something. Think about it, when someone tells you a joke, and you hear a word that you’ve never heard before, an unfamiliar location or celebrity name, you’re not likely to interrupt. You wait for the joke to be over and maybe you fake a laugh. Or if someone is talking about politics and you have no idea what they are referencing, chances are, you nod and say “interesting” without fully comprehending it.
Since we know it’s common and there’s a good explanation for why we do it, here’s some good ways to break the habit.
Breaking the habit
People love to share information about themselves. If you want to know more about them, but can’t hear, there is no shame in letting the speaker know you are having an issue understanding what they are saying. A great example on how to do this is if you are sitting in the back of a meeting or gathering. As soon as you start to lose the details spoken, say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I can’t hear well from down here, and I don’t want to miss this. Do you mind, if I switch places with someone or sit closer.”
The speaker will be glad you are truly interested in what they have to say.
The best thing to do to break this habit is know that the earlier you let the speaker know you don’t understand what they are saying, the better. This shows, early on, you are invested in the conversation and it also prevents the speakers from repeating themselves.
Every time you miss something because of your hearing loss, think of it as an opportunity to improve your current situation and to educate others for future occasions. When you do this enough, people start remembering what you need and might even make suggestions to make your life easier.