Have you ever found yourself pretending to hear during a conversation? While many of us have experienced this, it is particularly common for people with hearing loss. Pretending to hear is often a strategy people use to navigate conversations, especially in environments that are more challenging to hear in. While it can feel helpful at the moment, pretending to hear can have major consequences on your health and wellness. It can leave you out of conversations and what’s happening around you, strain your relationships, and increase health risks.
Why do people pretend to hear?
Hearing loss reduces one’s capacity to hear and process sound which produces several symptoms that strain communication. This includes tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears, sounds are slurred or distorted, and identifying individual words is challenging. This often causes people to:
Frequently ask others to repeat themselves, speak louder and/or slower
Lip read to distinguish words
Move to a quieter setting to be able to hear more clearly
Miss words or parts of a conversation
These symptoms make it both challenging and exhausting to engage in conversation. This can lead people to pretend to hear to simply get through a conversation. It is also common for people to not want to disclose their hearing loss to others so pretending to hear is a way to conceal impaired hearing.
Additionally, many of us can relate to the idea of not liking to interrupt others in the middle of what they are saying. So pretending to hear is also a way to avoid what is thought of as an inconvenience by stopping the other person to ask for clarification. Understanding more of the experience of hearing loss and how it affects communication helps illuminate why people pretend to hear. Though understandable, this strategy can make things worse for your hearing, relationships, and health.
Pretending to hear impacts hearing health
It takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss from the time they start experiencing symptoms. Pretending to hear is one way that people deal with these symptoms to put off seeking treatment. But it can worsen hearing impairment as well as the consequences of untreated hearing loss. Hearing loss exists on a spectrum: from mild to more profound. Avoiding treatment can deepen impairment, exacerbating symptoms which can lead to:
Social withdrawal: because conversations are challenging to participate in, people often avoid them altogether. This means skipping out on social events, and activities, and spending less time with others. Social withdrawal produces depressive symptoms like loneliness, stress, isolation, etc. which impact one’s mental health and wellness.
Strained relationships: pretending to hear in your relationships can take a toll on those connections. People can feel unheard, ignored, and frustrated that they are not being listened to. It affects the quality of conversation and time you can spend with others. Pretending to hear means missing out on what others are trying to share with you and the kind of intimacy and closeness that is important for relationships.
Overall health decline: untreated hearing loss increases the risk of developing other health conditions. This includes cognitive decline and associated conditions like Alzheimer’s, depression, and accidental injuries. These risks can impact quality of life, happiness, and capacity to navigate daily life independently.
Fortunately, treating hearing loss can alleviate these symptoms and prevent these possible outcomes which are why intervening as early as possible is so important.
Benefits of treating hearing loss
Treating hearing loss can alleviate your inclination to pretend to hear. Treatment offers numerous life-changing benefits that transform your hearing and overall health. The most common way hearing loss is treated is with hearing aids. These highly innovative devices are designed to provide the ears and brain with ample support for processing sound. This maximizes one’s hearing capacity, making it much easier to hear in all environments. Hearing aids also alleviate hearing loss symptoms, creating a greater capacity to engage with others. Being able to hear and communicate more clearly and readily equips people with the support needed to fully participate in conversations and navigate social settings. People are better able to be more present with others which contributes to effective communication. Not only does this strengthen communication but also relationships, social engagement, and wellness.