Yes, I Have Hearing Loss, Talk to Me Anyway

This bears repeating: It’s important to be included in the conversation.

True friends and understanding family will do that. They’ll repeat, they’ll rephrase, they might even spell it out. One friend pulls out a notebook and jots down the key words. It helps if I parrot back the parts of the sentence I did hear, so they understand what I missed.

But not everyone is as patient. How many times have I heard, “Never mind, it isn’t important”? Mimages-1aybe it isn’t, but I still want to hear it.

Nevertheless, constant repetition of something trivial does get tedious for the speaker — and for me! —  and so, sometimes in a social situation, I just let it go. I’d rather the person keep talking to me than understand every word.

(This is not something I’d do in a business meeting or in any important discussion, by the way. It’s just for social chitchat. And before you start lecturing me, I do use assistive devices, like an FM system or a Roger Pen. Sometimes I still just can’t hear.)

Is this wise? Do I really want to hear only part of a conversation? Maybe, depending on who the speaker is. What I do want is to be included in conversation. I want to be invited places. I want to be seen as someone fun and interesting, rather than as a constant drag on conversation. I know readers will criticize me for saying this. We people with hearing loss, especially advocates like me, are supposed to demand our rights, not lie down and surrender.

So why do I do just that — lie down and surrender? Why do I accept only part of the conversation? I think I have a good reason. A huge danger for people with hearing loss is isolation. Isolation is not good for your mental health. It can lead to depression and cognitive decline.

If I asked for clarification of every word, social chitchat would quickly bog down. As a result, I might not try again next time. That’s how isolation occurs.

For now, I listen closely, I try to gauge what I really want to hear and selectively ask the speaker for clarification. The rest of the time I smile and nod, or frown and sigh, or raise my eyebrows, or laugh appreciatively. How do I know to do this without knowing what was said? I follow the speaker’s face. The clues are all there. Of course I run the risk of a grossly inappropriate misreading of the speaker’s face. But that’s a risk I’ll take to keep people talking to me.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Shouting Wont’ Help “and “Living Better With Hearing Loss,” both available at


This article first appeared in a slightly different form on AARP Health. 

6 thoughts on “Yes, I Have Hearing Loss, Talk to Me Anyway

  1. I know all about the statement of “never mind” because we people with hearing loss are not worth hearing or repeats. I do want to mention that most people with hearing loss should have a personal assistive listening device such as the Pocket Talker Ultra with a head set. Hearing aids are not miracles and are very important including the cochlear implant. However in a noisy restaurant or a family gathering the Pocket Talker helps. I never knew about this accommodation until I joined Hearing Loss Association of America( HLAA). People that work with patients or seniors should have one with them all the time for their clients. I always take my Pocket Talker on vacation in case my hearing aids break down. Without my hearing aids and Pocket Talker I tell people I can only see your mouth moving.


  2. You are so right on, Katherine. There is no way, once you have any level of hearing loss that you get back “normal” hearing. You can have thousands of dollars invested in hearing aids, cochlear implants, Roger Pens and dozens more wonderful devices and you still don’t have normal – perfect hearing. Even though life is so much better with these devices, there is simply no way to get it all. So you advocate and you accommodate. Being pleasant will get you more than demanding clarification of every word. Thanks!


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