I’m Tired of Saying “Pardon?”

hearing loss tired of asking to repeat
Gael Hannan
July 19, 2023

One of the top activities in the life of a person with hearing loss is asking for something to be repeated. And repeated. And repeated.

Even when a listening situation is optimal – there’s lots of light, no noise, the other person(s) are facing you and speaking clearly – there are bound to be moments where you must ask, “What was that?” “Come again?” “One more time?” “Pardon?” If the person knows you well, you may just have to cock an ear at them, raise your eyebrows with a forward chin-thrust, or frown in a questioning way and they will automatically repeat what they said, 

This is the conversation of my life. So I’m used to it. I’m experienced at asking for repeats or for clarification. I explain my hearing loss and my communication needs. I’m skilled at creating an optimal listening situation. But sometimes, you know? I get a little tired of it.

There are times when I yearn for a free-flowing conversation with friends and family, one that I don’t bring skidding to a halt with a loudly inserted pardon me or, even worse, put into reverse. 

Do I wish that I didn’t have hearing loss? Oh, that might be nice except that I’d have to find a new career and new hobbies, because hearing loss advocacy, writing and performing have been what I do for the last 30 years. I love it.

Really, I would just like a break, just a short one, from having to say pardon or huh all the time. We know that hearing people often get frustrated with being asked to repeat themselves, especially repeatedly. What they might not realize is that we (the people with hearing loss) can get equally frustrated, not only with having to ask, but with their responses! 

Do they think we don’t see their hesitation as they swallow a sigh? That we can’t see their eye-rolling – because their eyes are, after all, open? Do they not realize our infuriated humiliation when they repeat their words slowly and/or exaggeratedly, as if we’re not speaking the same language, or as if we are far below them on the IQ scale?

When this happens, I need to swallow my frustration – and to resist the urge to apologize. Sometimes other people just need gentle reminders on the communication rules of engagement. And we ourselves are often guilty of the same crimes – breaking eye contact, speaking too quickly, or interfering in a thousand ways with good speech reading. It is our job to start the process of improving the listening environment and then making allies of our conversation partners.

But I’m not a perfect communicator, probably because I’m human, prone to error and listening fatigue – a hallmark of hearing loss. When I’m tired, I can get a bit cranky when other people are less than perfect in their communication. To avoid asking for repeats all the time, I would require a barrier-free conversation with people (including me) who communicate perfectly 100% of the time.

This is impossible because there are too many variables and too many barriers, again because we are humans and can’t always control background noise. And I  also can’t control a person’s manner of speaking, especially if they are chronic mumblers or soft-voiced. My only strategy in this situation is to try my best and then minimize any future interactions. Sad but necessary.

But one thing I know: what is difficult today, such as being tired of having hearing loss, will be easier tomorrow because that’s the way I roll. I’ll be the Happy HoH (Hard of Hearing) again. 

But if I say pardon to you, just chill with the eye rolling, ok?

  1. Thanks, Gael. I share your pain.
    It’s difficult when I think I’ve heard correctly, too. Sometimes, when we get home and my spouse is discussing something that was said, I realize that, without knowing it, I didn’t get the gist of a conversation.

  2. That even you, after all your years HoH, feel the need to write about this, that you have the AUDACITY to moan about it, ever so slightly (your restraint is admirable) just proves to me (who doesn’t really need it proven as am also faced with it, daily) just how annoying it all is to us HoHs!! I can be patient, I can be understanding (it is after all MY problem) but it’s hard to keep that up when even family and friends that KNOW (they can’t NOT) are so useless, and I’m 40 years in! You can ask nicely once, maybe a second time you’ll even get a decent response for THAT particular part you missed, but then two minutes later, you might as well not have mentioned that you are HoH at all. Voices are raised for one sentence! Even when they’re not annoyed at you for interrupting their flow, they need to tell their FACE that because the response sounds… snapped! Just repeat it! Don’t snap at me!? Very very frustrating. I tend to mostly let it go, because otherwise I’m complaining full-time, but just sometimes… WHY are people so…. “££$%&**$^&£”@@! Good to read a nicely worded rant on our behalves 🙂

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