Why Pretending to Hear Doesn’t Help

Why Pretending to Hear Doesn't Help

Do you struggle to hear in environments with background noise? Is keeping up with conversations at parties or in restaurants challenging? These are common signs of hearing loss and a strategy people often use to navigate communication in these settings is pretending to hear. Pretending to hear is a common way people with untreated hearing loss get through a conversation. While it can feel helpful in the moment and you are simply trying to not call attention to yourself, it can have major effects on your health. Pretending to hear often delays treatment which can worsen hearing loss as well as increase health risks. Acknowledging symptoms you are experiencing and seeking treatment can transform your health and daily life in significant ways. 

Why do People Pretend to Hear?

Hearing loss reduces a person’s capacity to hear and process sound. This produces numerous symptoms that take a toll on communication. Common symptoms include tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears), sound is slurred or distorted, difficulty identifying where sounds are coming from (sound localization). These symptoms strain communication and may cause people to:

  • Ask others to repeat themselves, speak louder, and/or slower. 
  • Move to a quieter space to be able to hear more clearly. 
  • Lip read to help identify individual words. 
  • Not hear specific words or parts of a conversation. 
  • Experience more fatigue after conversations and social interactions. 

These symptoms make it hard to engage in conversations. Hearing loss forces the brain to use extra energy in trying to locate and process sound signals. Not only is this tiring but this tool can make conversations cumbersome or unpleasant. 

People who have not addressed their hearing loss or are reluctant to disclose this information may find themselves pretending to hear. This prevents people from having to share this with others which can be overwhelming. Pretending to hear also allows people to avoid asking others to adjust or asking for clarification which even people without hearing loss can relate to. Interrupting others mid conversation or sentence can be uncomfortable and pretending to hear is a way to avoid this. But this strategy can actually make hearing and communication worse.  

What is the Impact of Pretending to Hear? 

Pretending to hear can lead to negative outcomes that affect hearing, overall health, and quality of life. This includes: 

  • Strained relationships: communication is the foundation of healthy relationships. Strained communication and pretending to hear can take a toll on relationships in several ways. Not engaging loved ones and being present during as well as participating fully in conversations impacts them. People often report feeling unheard or ignored by their loved one with hearing loss. This can produce tension, distance, and frustration  in relationships. Pretending to hear the effects of spending quality time and the types of conversations people are able to have. 
  • Delays treatment: pretending to hear also delays treatment. It takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. Pretending to hear allows people to get through conversations which is a way to avoid treatment. People often think that if they can “make it” through a conversation, their hearing loss is not that bad. But pretending to hear is a sign of hearing loss and avoiding treatment can worsen impairment over time. 
  • Increases health risks: pretending to hear and delaying treatment also increases health risks. Untreated hearing loss increases the risk of experiencing cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depressive symptoms. Pretending to hear rather than actually being able to hear the sounds and speech in one’s environment reduces spatial awareness as well as impacts brain health. 

You can prevent these outcomes by treating hearing loss. There is a range of hearing healthcare services, resources, and solutions available to transform your health. 

How do I Approach Treatment?

The first step is simple: contact us to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. This involves a hearing test which evaluates your hearing capacities in both ears. Once we establish your hearing needs, we can recommend treatment options to best meet those needs. Treating hearing loss alleviates symptoms and increases capacity to hear. This strengthens communication, relationships, and overall health. Contact us today to learn more!