Having a Bad Hearing Day?

Ever had one of those days?   A day that is pocked, from sunrise to moonrise, with hearing faux pas and embarrassing moments?  A day when, no matter what the situation or conversation, communication brings more pain than pleasure?  A day that tempts you to hide from all human interaction—forever? 

You know you’re having a bad hearing day when:

  • You’re missing so much that you pull out your hearing aid and look at it, bewildered and betrayed, in much the same way a tennis player might, after a bad shot, examine a racquet with disbelief. (Is there a hole in it? Is there something wrong with the equipment?)
  • You say pardon so often that ….well, you just say it so often!
  • People’s lips seem to be moving to words that bear no resemblance to what you are hearing—rather like watching a Japanese movie dubbed in Danish (and you speak only, say, Romanian).
  • You have an unexpected flare-up of tinnitus—the one that sounds like an endless parade of bongos and castanets.
  • You turn clammy, realizing you don’t have any backup batteries in your purse. So you tense up, subconsciously trying to hear less, in an attempt to minimize battery power.
  • You try bluffing your way through a meeting, or a book club conversation. All of a sudden, the hot laser eyes of the universe are turned on you, expectantly, and you have zero idea what you’re supposed to respond to.
  • Everyone you know seems to have forgotten everything you’ve taught them about good communication. Even your mom, and that hurts.

And the day just goes on and on in the hearing loss version of Murphy’s Law.  What can go wrong, will go wrong and at the end of the day, you feel exhausted, abused and mildly frantic.

“Damn this hearing loss,” you curse, fist to the ceiling.  “Why me?  Why not my sister, or my cousin?  Why couldn’t I have been dealt a different disability?”

While there’s no good answer to these questions (especially from the well-meaning person who suggests that your hearing loss isn’t as bad as their chronically itchy feet), that dramatic fist flourish does feel good because sometimes a body just needs to VENT!  

But once the hissy-fit has run out of hiss, how do you get over an epic bad hearing day?  A cup of mint tea? Binge-watching on Netflix? A brisk two-mile walk?

Well, yes!  Those will help and may give you time to think back over that hearing day from hell. Why was it so bad?  Was it a long string of bad moments, or just one or two paralysing moments of communication-gone-wrong?  And why all in one day?

It could be due to one, or both, of the evil twins: fatigue and anxiety.   If you are tired, or if you’ve been anxious about something else (not everything is about your hearing loss), it’s difficult to focus on what’s being said, leaving you vulnerable to communication breakdowns.   And when one communication glitch occurs, it’s not always easy to sail through the frustration and relegate it to the mental garbage bin.  The negative emotion may linger, so that when a second glitch occurs, it becomes amplified out of proportion, and the day becomes an increasingly large snowball of frustration.

A third possibility is that some days are just like that.  A bad hearing day is like a bad hair day, or a day on which you got up on the wrong side of the bed (and the Romans believed that if you did that, your day was going to be crap). So while these aren’t foolproof ways to prevent a bad hearing day, they might certainly help:

  • Be technically prepared: make sure hearing technology is as pristine as possible, and have backup batteries within grabbing distance.
  • Be well-rested. Generally speaking, people with hearing loss use more energy to communicate than do hearing people; our intense visual focus can be draining.  If we’re tired (regardless of the reason), we simply don’t have the mental resources required for the communication gauntlet.
  • Try to separate anxiety about other issues from bad hearing moments. Anxiety can weaken our ability to speechread and/or be attentive to sound cues. If a communication glitch occurs, recognize the problem, deal with it and move on.  Or, give yourself a break and remove yourself from the communication environment; try a quick trip to the loo, for some deep breathing and a few moments of peace and quiet.
  • Have a couple of tried-and-true throwaway lines on hand, i.e., “I’m having a bad hearing day” or “Well, that wasn’t even close, was it?” or “Why stop at two? Can you repeat that for a third time, please?” Preferably, these would be delivered with a little smile or laugh.  (They say that you when you have hearing loss, you need to keep your sense of humor.  My question—what if you never had one in the first place?)

Finally—and this may not be of any comfort whatsoever—know that when you’re having a bad hearing day, there are millions of others people out there having an equally bad day, some for the same reason and others for reasons we cannot possibly imagine.

The good news is that tomorrow the sun is going to rise again—most likely on a much better communication day.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. As much as I would love to whine about my problems, I prefer to reach for a glass of wine and watch a movie to decompress or go fencing where I can stab people (it’s amazingly therapeutic)

  2. My hearing various from day to day..I have almost no hearing days to ok to am hearing this? Then what is that and what is where is it coming from “my adventures of what is it ,what was that again and one more time,move your lips and look at between the eyes”

  3. So far no mention of the environment factor of a lowering barometer. When it hits 30.2 Iam no longer able to keeping on keeping on.Can predict weather within a hundred miles without the tv newscast,,etc for years I kept a record on a calendar and proved that point . Now most Menieres physicians do the mentioning! Tinnutis there every moment ,every normal day, unbearable, but you bear it! Trains blasting horns coming through tunnel, planes zooming in 6 ft over head..orchestra desperately failing on tuning up..especially violins and french horns… lying on the worse affected ear sometimes helps to make it better…too hard to tell which ear is worse. Today was one of those days ,,met friend, many photo of paintings to enter shows necessary, house wall type painting colors to be decided and I must pretend I do not feel I am going absolutely crazy by the noise! Thank goodness, could just tell the friend. Others strangers and most are very uncomfortable around the deaf no matter how many rules of conduct on my part of coping mechanisms taught in national hearing convention workshops.this site gives me solace as in feel i am sharing with others thatDO UNDERSTAND my difficult days

  4. A bad hearing day to me is just another day of not hearing (or perhaps not thinking as clearly) as I thought I could hear. After decades of “not normal” hearing I still believe I am hearing normal until the faithful time arrives that communication with the hearing world requires me to reinsert my hearing aids…which usually occurs after enjoying a few moments of morning peace and tranquility. Too often it is the onslaught of noise that results in a bad hearing day. Unprepared to hear, imagine that!
    A bad hearing day is not the result of bad hearing, it is the result of not being prepared for the hearing environment you are entering. A good hearing day takes preparation, having the right mind set and tools for the job at hand, at home, in the office, on the phone, in the car, in a noisy place or reverberant room. A good hearing day requires you to control your hearing environment, you are the one that needs to hear to communicate. To borrow a saying “If it sounds like a bad hearing day it usually is” ..so don’t step into it!, step over it with a good hearing day mind set.

  5. I have been doing a lot of research on how diet can affect hearing especially during those stressful, anxiety riddled days. I’m still in the early experimental stages however, I have noticed significant improvements.

  6. Today and yesterday and the day before that all were bad hearing days.
    Sentences all sound muddy, and examination of aids, new batteries, clean ears etc., made no,difference.
    See my specialist, and ” your aids seem to be working well”.
    I ask; ” would new ones be any better? Answer, maybe, but not for sure”
    Crap. I hate this…

  7. Oh yes, I have those days often now that I’m profound in both ears. However, I’m pretty good at coping most days, even though I rely totally on lipreading and the visual. I can usually tell when I’m going to have a day where I’m not in the frame of mind to cope well, and I usually stay home on those days. Not always possible when you work or have commitments.

    I am very amazed that my hearing ability often plays less of a part in a good day than does my attitude. Some days I feel as if I can conquer the world and no amount of not hearing or lack of understanding can make me feel down. I’m like Super Mario and I just dodge, skip, and propel myself to the next thing. I always hope that people are paying attention on those days and I demonstrate how capable a deaf person can be. However, we all have those days when we wished we would have just stayed home. :o) ~~Michele

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