Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help


Whether or not you have hearing loss, everyone has encountered social situations where they haven’t been able to follow a conversation. It’s a typical human response to pretend we understand, even when we do not, so as to not make a fuss. Seldom does this sort of ignorance equal bliss. Not only do we not get to fully enjoy the conversation as we struggle to catch its meaning, it sets us up for awkward misunderstandings, and puts us at risk of giving a confused or inappropriate response.

For people with untreated hearing loss, pretending to understand speech can slip into a bad habit. While nodding along may seem like the easiest option, it usually does more harm than good, and it doesn’t do your health any favors. If you are having frequent, persistent hearing trouble you need to treat it as a health concern and visit your hearing specialist.

The Hearing Cost of Pretending

Allowing your hearing problems to go unchecked makes it more difficult for your hearing to be rehabilitated. When hearing loss goes untreated, stress is put on the connection between the hearing mechanisms in our ear and the cognitive functions of our brain. Damaged hearing means our brain scrambles to fill in missing information our ears no longer provide. Not only does that leave us with incomplete information, it also takes cognitive functioning away from other tasks, even primary ones like balance and coordination.

When this scrambling happens more and more often, the brain gradually reformats the way it comprehends sound. Corresponding to this, the longer you let a hearing issue slide, the deeper the brain’s changes become. Once the brain has adapted to limited hearing, it makes it less responsive to hearing assistance, such as hearing aids. Although hearing aids can help almost all cases of hearing loss, the longer hearing loss goes untreated the more the brain has to work to essentially re-learn how to hear with a device.

The Social Cost of Pretending

Incidences of social faux pas are probably the most immediate issue that arises when you pretend to hear. While this can be as simple as a minor wrong note among close friends, it can just as easily have a major consequences- such as misinterpreting a plan or project at work, or spreading misinformation in your social network. Misunderstanding a conversation can leave you out of the loop on critical information and leave you seeming less competent or trustworthy, especially in professional situations.

Additionally, pretending to hear encourages you to drift away from engaging in conversation. At its worst, it can make you vulnerable to isolation because the struggle to comprehend speech can make it seem desirable to detach from social engagements.

Addressing hearing loss helps you stay connected and informed. Being honest and assertive about your hearing difficulties makes it easier for others to accommodate you and understand your position. You miss a lot when you can’t hear effectively, but managing your hearing loss helps you stop shortchanging yourself.

The Mental Health Cost of Pretending

Much of our mental health and quality of life is tethered to how well we feel we can understand- and be understood by- others. When you pretend to hear things you actually don’t hear you are deluding yourself that your communication isn’t being limited. If you struggle with your hearing, frustration and confusion can push you away from engaging in communication with others. With limited communication you can become increasingly vulnerable to mental health issues.

Untreated hearing loss correlates specifically with an increased risk of isolation, anxiety and depression. When sounds are difficult to perceive and comprehend, it stresses our brain and our body, leading to increased anxiety. Rising anxiety over loud, social or unfamiliar situations can help fuel social isolation by reinforcing withdrawal. Isolation can arise when our struggle to communicate limits how well we are able to understand and be understood, as unchecked hearing problems can sever our connection to even the most important people in our lives. Depression can also spring from hearing loss, as connections to society and loved ones becomes strained and tenuous.

Exceptional Hearing Care

Pretending to hear is more than just a bad habit; it leads to increasing difficulty in many spheres of life. Rather than make this “easy out” your social strategy, when you notice hearing trouble, take action. Problems with your hearing are best examined by a hearing specialist- like our great team at Exceptional Hearing Care. We have the expertise and experience to help you find the right hearing solutions for any issue. If you’ve caught yourself lost during a conversation connect with us and set up a hearing exam today!

Posted on November 19, 2017 by Exceptional Hearing Care

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