Self-Forgiveness: A Great Hearing Hack!

Gael Hannan
June 5, 2024


Oh darn, I did it again. I slid into bluffing mode!

Hey, the conversation was a nightmare to follow – it was noisy and I didn’t know the people very well. There were several things I could have done to not bluff, but they involved time, disruption, and putting more value on the casual conversation than I was prepared to give.

Still, it would have been polite to stay engaged, but I allowed myself to be sidelined. And now, I forgive myself for opting out, on this occasion.

If you’re like me, you know all about the tools that can help you hear and communicate better. But also like me, you may not always use them when you should.

As a hearing health advocate, I write and talk about the technology, positive mindsets and interactive behaviors that give us the best shot at good communication. I know this stuff.

Then why do I not always practice what I preach?

Why don’t I carry my mini-mic with me to help understand speech in noisy situations?

Why do I frequently skip the daily meditation that will help calm my brain, offering a little relief from tinnitus and hyperacusis?

And ditto for the daily heart pumping exercise for just 20 minutes that my doctor recommends for healthy aging. I know it also contributes to calmer neural pathways.

Why do I allow myself to slip into bluffing-mode during conversations that are engulfed in background noise and chatter?

Am I lazy, or forgetful, or tired, or just taking the easy way out?  I mean, who doesn’t experience these things from time to time?

The simple answer to all these questions is that I’m a human, and humans don’t always act in our own best interests. We get in our own way.

Even though it’s glaringly obvious that I’m not a perfect person with hearing loss, I somehow expect myself to be. After 30 years of walking the talk, I’m supposed to have nailed this. The truth is that I regularly commit communication ‘sins’; sometimes I’m aware of it and other times I’m not. Dealing with the ongoing challenges of hearing loss is energy-sapping.

In our book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, Shari Eberts and I write about Hearing Hacks, a type of life hack that helps us communicate better in listening situations. Here’s a cool one: I forgive myself.

I’m talking with someone in a noisy situation. As they are yakkity-yakking, I realize that’s all I’m understanding. My hearing system, which includes my overloaded brain, isn’t translating the yakkity-yak-yak into English. Yet, I just keep nodding so expertly that the nice person doesn’t suspect I’m not with them.

Option A: “Excuse me, nice person, I’m not understanding you because of this noise. Let’s move to a quieter spot.”

Option B: Bear with the yakkity-yak and then disengage from the conversation.

The first option was the better version of me; I improved the situation so we could have a valid conversation. With the second option, I’m not sure of what I missed but I gave myself a slap on the wrist, and then forgave myself.

Hearing Hacks can help prevent or minimize communication breakdowns:

  • Make others aware that our listening environment may pose challenges. Choose alternative spots, or make adjustments such as more light, less noise.
  • Move as close to the speaker as possible without invading their personal space. An explanation may earn you an invite to come even closer.
  • Be brave when asking for improved speech from others, such as louder, slower, face me, repeat that please. People aren’t mind readers and they are having this conversation with you for a reason.
  • Don’t be so proud (I say to myself) or image conscious. Open the speech to text app on your phone. Remember to use your remote microphone at dinner – on the table or attached to your companion’s shirt.
  • Forgive yourself and others when you make communication boo-boos. (Yes, repeatedly!)

Like me, you may deal with communication challenges every day, for the rest of your life. How we respond to those challenges is the game changer.

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