A few months ago, my guest blogger Lauren Sherwood wrote a poignant and popular piece on the “two most painful words to a hard of hearing person”.   If you have hearing loss, you know what the two words are: Never mind!

 

The article beautifully expressed the universal stab in the stomach that people with hearing loss (PWHL)  feel every time they hear these words.   Never mind shuts us down, invalidates us, highlights our struggles with hearing loss, hurts our feelings and, what’s more, it’s just plain rude.  The words light a fire under our frustrations and often we can’t help spitting out an emotional response: “Don’t say that to me! How dare you! Tell me what you said!”

 

In our struggles with the stigma of hearing loss, some of us for just a short time and some for a lifetime, every minor rejection related to our hearing loss, whether intended or not, can be a blow to our self-regard.  And this term has the same impact in whatever language it is delivered:

 

Laissez faire!   French

No importa!      Spanish

Non importa!   Italian

δεν πειράζει !   Greek

Nic nie szkodzi!   Polish

Laat maar!     Dutch

Vergiss es  (forget it) or nicht wichtig (not important)  German

Doesn’t matter!  New Zealand

 

But are we being over-sensitive when we hear those words?  Hearing people may think so, but I believe most people with hearing loss would agree when I say, “No, we’re not being over-sensitive. Well maybe. But even if we are, it’s tough to ignore the rejection we feel with each brush-off, each refusal to repeat what was said. When you stop us cold, it tells us you don’t value our input into what’s supposed to be a conversation.”

 

Why do hearing people say it in the first place, often accompanied with a little wave of the hand and almost always with eyes shifting away from ours? There are a few possibilities:

 

  1. They’re tired and think we’re asking them to repeat everything they’ve been droning on about.  (That’s too bad, but do it anyway.)
  2. They’re in a rush and don’t have time to repeat. (Make the time.)
  3. They forgot what they said. (I sympathize, but just admit it.)
  4. They don’t want to talk about it anymore. (Find a more polite way to bring the conversation to a close—but after you repeat yourself.)
  5. They realize what they’ve said is trivial, silly or just plain stupid—and repeating it would highlight how truly dumb their comments were. (Let me be the one who decides whether it’s important or not.)

 

Any person, regardless of hearing ability, who is asked to repeat something, should just be courteous and repeat it.  It’s that simple.  Otherwise, to paraphrase what Thumper’s mama made him repeat in the movie ‘Bambi’:   “If you can’t say somethin’ twice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”thumper

 

Maybe we people with hearing loss do need thicker skins when it comes to hearing loss.  We’re working hard to succeed with our hearing loss, especially to maintain our self-esteem.  And it’s an ongoing process—one that we must accept—to train others on how to communicate with us.  One internet site about developing thicker skin said we should ‘learn to be happy with ourselves, don’t let people know they get to us and ignore what people say.’ Well, we agree with the first part, but the second and third points run opposite of what we’re trying to do here—we want to know what people are saying!  I like what the writer at eatsleepbe.com had to say:

 

Put it in perspective.  Is it possible that person did not realize how the words came out? Why is this bothering me?

Determine a response.  Think it out carefully to avoid misinterpretation. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

 

Thumper’s is one possible response to never-minders. Another is the angry response, fodder for another argument.  So, in preparation for the next time it happens (because it will happen again, as sure as the sun’s gonna rise tomorrow), practice some alternative methods to break the non importa-person of their bad habit, or at least remind them there’s a better way to communicate.  Instead of lashing out, take a breath before answering:

 

To “Oh never mind”:           Well, I’m already ‘minding’, so please repeat it.

To “It’s not important”:        It is to me….or… Well, then stop talking.

To “It was nothing”:             It must be, because you said it.  It was part of our conversation.

 To “It doesn’t matter”:        Yes it does.

If the person is a chronic offender, and you really must continue interacting with them—your spouse or mom or child, for example—it’s time for a serious sit-down and review of communication basics.

The bottom line, as the writer Katherine Bouton wrote in response to Lauren’s article, “…don’t say, ‘Never mind, it doesn’t matter.’  To the person who can’t hear it, everything matters.”  

15 Responses to Is Our Hearing Loss Skin Too Thin?

  1. Emma pritchard says:

    My son wears a CI and HA, when he was diagnosed at two months old I vowed never to say ‘never mind’ or ‘it’s not important’ (or as I would say it to him, in Swedish, ‘äh, det spelar ingen roll, or ‘det var inget viktigt’) and so far, three years down the line I haven’t. It is sometimes not very easy though, if he’s asked to do something he doesn’t like or doesn’t want to do he’ll immediately say ‘what did you say?’ (Vad sa du?) in the hope of being let off the hook. So far unsuccessfully so!

  2. Velda May says:

    I am a 2 CI recipient and there are still sounds I don’t hear quite right. I got tired of hearing myself say What? or “didn’t quite catch that” all the time, so now I repeat what I hear, which usually gets a laugh and they will automatically repeat what they say until I get it right. Makes for some entertaining conversations.

  3. Susan Blake says:

    It is demeaning for a hearing perons to say “nevermind” after someone with hearing loss or deafness asks them to repeat the questions or statement. It says that we are not important enough to hold a conversation that inconveniences that individual.

    While I am not thinned skinned, I do not let the individual off the hook when it happens to me. I insist that they show respect by repeating themselves using similar approach that Juliette mentioned in her comment (i.e., if it’s important to say one….).

  4. Laurie Pullins says:

    It does matter. My brother was married to a wife that said that to him all the time. They later divorced.

    We, on the other hand, were blessed with family and friends who answered our questions or made sure we understood what was going on.

    Another great post. Thank you!

  5. Juliette Sterkens - HLAA Hearing Loop Advocate says:

    As you may know Gael, I happen to know something about Dutch so here it goes: ;o)

    In Dutch the terms “laat maar” or “tis niet belangrijk” (“Let it be” or “Tis not important”) might even be more appropriate to use in this example. My father’s comment to us saying that used it be: “If it is important to say it once – it is important to repeat it CLEARLY!” There is one more that frustrates many: ‘Ik vertel ‘t je wel later” (“I will tell you later”) yet they never do.

  6. Kathleen Cabot says:

    very interesting article and comments,I myself am guilty of saying these words to my husband Mike then I fell really bad yet I don’t like it when other people say it to him, I know he shuts himself away from other people he will not ask to repeat the conversation most times he is in his own little world your article really made me see a lot of things, I will never say those words never mind again, or let anyone else say it to him
    thanks for this

  7. Leon Mills says:

    Hello Gael:
    The points you’ve made with your message couldn’t be any clearer. I guess another way of saying it would be – if you’re not willing to repeat what you said, don’t say it at all – and I don’t mean that in a snarky way. Lots of people don’t get what someone said the first time they spoke as they are often concentrating on something else.

    This was a common problem for me when I was a hard of hearing student at university, and living in a dorm with 100 guys, so I got to the point where the word – What – seemed to be the most common form of speech that I made. It was a self-defense mechanism to get people to start over; then, as I was looking at them, I could understand them quite well.

    This backfired though as one day, one of the smart mouth types found this to be quite funny, so he gave me the nickname of, you guessed it – What. Needless to say, yours truly didn’t find this very funny, but what can you do when you’re living with a hundred guys who often act like idiots (a lot of them were like those actors in Animal House).

    So, I had to grin and bear it, but you know it was often an interesting conversation starter for someone who didn’t know me, which then gave me an opportunity to tell them about my hearing loss and how they could more easier communicate with me, thus another person was educated. Keep up with the great writing Gael!

  8. Richard Badcock says:

    Very interesting article and comments. I have 2 cochlear implants and this would happen to me pre implantation, funny enough I am now guilty of doing this to normal hearing people sometimes, particularly if I sense they are not really concentrating on what I am saying (I havn’t got a speach impediment), I am not being rude, but sometimes the moment is lost and repeating would achieve nothing.

  9. Lauren Ballantyne says:

    One of my friends says never mind quite frequently and I eventually came to realize that his refusal to repeat himself was about his low self esteem and not wanting to draw attention to himself or making what he was saying more important than what it was by repeating it. It really had nothing to do with me. It was more painful for him to have to repeat what he said than it was for me not knowing what he said. He’s a good friend in every other way, so he gets a pass. Others….not so much.

  10. David Pearson says:

    When I was younger.. 30 or 40 years ago, it would bother me when someone say.. “Not important”, “Never Mind”, My self esteem was pretty low back then.

    Now I’ve learned that it how you present yourself to them… Do you keep saying “WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? WHHAAATT? repeatedly? That is nerve wracking to others. If you smile and say that “I have a hearing loss and I’m interesting in what you have to say, ” Please could you repeat what your said.” Most people would be willing to do it. Or if it how they say it.. Ask them, Could you rephrase the statement?

    • Gael Hannan says:

      Spot on, David! It’s easier for some people. It takes longer for others to come the same realization as you did. That’s social media is hopefully cutting down on the time it takes for someone to deal effectively with their hearing loss.

  11. Carolyn steadham says:

    It is really good to read my life and feelings . NEVER MIND pushed me further and further to build a wall around me and learn to close myself up in a room alone. I didn’t live until I was 63 yrs.old . That’s when I got my first Cochlear Implant. Then my second implant less than 6 months later. Now l live my life with the hearing people and all the amazing sounds I’ve never know.

    • Gael Hannan says:

      Good for you, Carolyn! It’s always validating when we read about what other people go through. The loneliness disappears.

  12. myrtle barrett says:

    never mind was the story of my life until I realized that it did matter and I became more assertive about ME as a person with hearing loss. You hit the nail on the head with this one, Gael