Responding to the Two Most Painful Words

Gael Hannan
September 26, 2023


Last week, I shared an article by Lauren Sherwood about the most painful words a person with hearing loss can be told when asking for something to be repeated.

“Never mind.” “Don’t worry about it.” “Oh, nothing.” “It wasn’t important.”

The person who responds this way may honestly feel it wasn’t worth repeating, but it’s not their call to make. We have respectfully asked for a repeat of what was said. These negative brush-offs are not acceptable.

The words hurt us.

They make us invisible.

They take away our right to participate in a conversation.

They destroy our right to hear and be heard.

A reader commented on last week’s article, saying that he uses the opportunity to educate the person who makes these seemingly rude comments. It’s what all of us, the people with hearing loss, should do when given this reply. If the other person is a stranger or casual acquaintance, we can cut them slack, but if it is a close friend or a colleague, or especially a family member, we need to take back our control.

These are some of the many responses I’ve used over the years to stand up for my communication rights. There are many different tones built into these replies because it depends on the person we’re talking with. Some replies are delivered more lightly, and others might show our hurt.

In casual encounters when the person is not aware of our hearing loss:

  • No, I have hearing loss, please repeat.
  • It may have been nothing to you, but I’d like to hear it; I have hearing loss.
  • You said it once, you can do it again! Thanks!

In closer relationships, where your hearing loss is a known fact:

  • C’mon, don’t do that! What did you say?
  • Hey, not this again…don’t say never mind!
  • Let me be the judge of that, please.
  • You know how that makes me feel! Even if it was boring or stupid, tell me again. Or if it’s not worth repeating, why say it in the first place?

With your closest friends and family who should know better:

  • Seriously!? I can’t believe you did that to me. Again!
  • Don’t you never mind me!
  • You cut me out every time you do that.
  • Honey, c’mon!!!

Part of the problem is that, quite often, the comment is not of any great value. A throwaway remark that sounds silly when it’s said a second time. Or they regret saying it even as the words spill from their mouth.

Even so, we did not hear what they aid and if we care enough, we will ask them to repeat it. And it is common courtesy for them to do so.

Let’s stand up for our right to hear and be heard.

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