Would You Repeat That, Please?

Gael Hannan
January 22, 2023

Everyone does it. Everyone, not just the people with hearing loss, asks for things to be repeated and for many reasons.

We are momently distracted from the speaker’s words. What’s being said doesn’t quite make sense. The speaker is talking and eating at the same time. People are talking over each other. The words and facial expressions don’t match, such as sad words but happy eyes, making it confusing for the person who speechreads.

Any of these can make us hesitate because, by gosh, we don’t want to give the wrong response! In these situations, even ‘hearing’ people ask for repeats or clarification.

With words: Huh? Eh? What? Whazzat? Pardon? Again, please? Come again? (My personal favorite.)

Or with actions: hand cupped behind the ear, leaning forward with eyebrows raised, or with a head-turn and an ear-thrust towards them.

However we express it, we just need clarification and it’s OK to ask. People don’t mind, although they may feel a bit impatient when we continually ask for things to be repeated. But if you want to be in my life, asking for repeats is part of the package. And what our family and friends don’t realize is that we get as bored asking for repeats, as hearing people do giving them. We do not like slowing down the conversation, or even putting it into reverse.

Ask for a repeat once—and it’s given graciously.

Ask twice—and it’s repeated with concern.

But when we get to the third request, we’re stressed, with sweaty palms, even mentally accusing the person of stonewalling us on purpose! Dealing with the responses can also be jolting, even for the seasoned person with hearing loss.

  1. Impatience, a frown and maybe a little eyeball rolling.
  2. “Have you got your hearing aids in?”
  3. “Never mind, it’s not important.”
  4. A blow-off wave of the hand.

None of these are acceptable (especially #3). But sometimes we people with hearing loss don’t make things easy for ourselves —something to do with not being perfect people. We shouldn’t get even make this third request! After two unsuccessful repeats, it’s the absolute necessary time to say, “Hey, this isn’t working for me. Could you speak up/face me/swallow your food?”

If we can’t say that, we’re likely to just start doing the bluff nod-and-smile. Or go whole hog and not only leave the conversation, but town—boarding a bus in search of a new life in a new place where people speak more clearly.

In fairness, the  other person could/should also say: “I’m not speaking clearly, or it’s too noisy here. Let’s try something different.”

Communication is a two-way street. Both parties have responsibility for creating good communication. But we have to be honest; if something isn’t working, we need to recognize it and fix it. We can improve the listening environment and we can express and can clarify our needs with confidence.

It’s a fact of life that we must ask for repeats, whether it’s a courteous would you please repeat that, or some guttural equivalent. But when we take charge of our own communication, we may not have to ask as often.


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