cheat hearing loss

How To Cheat At Hearing

Some days, people with hearing loss get tired. Tired of doing everything we should in order to communicate as best as we can. We’re tired because it takes all our patience, energy, technology and know-how to navigate this world of communication challenges.

So some days, when we’re just not up for another round of hearing loss show-and-tell, we deliberately ignore the necessary stuff and settle for the hit-and-miss strategy of muddling through. This is OK if we accept that we’re going to miss a lot (or all) of what’s being said. But if you’re OK with that, if you’re up for a little hearing-cheating, who am I to say you shouldn’t?

To be clear, using other sources to fill in for audible messages is not cheating. It’s what many of us have to do – use whatever tools are available. For example, the written word and other visual information can boost or replace audible info, such as captioning or live speech-to-text. Many great programs are now available on our smartphones.

Alternatively, do you have pets? A dog, perhaps? Canines have wonderful hearing and they can act as your doorbell; someone is here, hooray! Unfortunately, they also bark to let you know that someone’s walking down the street, or if it’s raining, or if it’s dinnertime. A cat, while cute, is less useful. They perk up their kitty ears to let you know what direction a sound is coming from – but are useless at identifying it. I have no experience with how well pet pigs perform as hearing supports.

What is cheating is when you give people the false impression that you are hearing and understanding them. What most of us do when we’re not up to saying pardon every two minutes, or asking people to move into the light, or to speak more slowly, is to make them think that everything is hunky-dory. Some might call this bluffing, but I think it’s more deliberate than that. This is down and dirty cheating, but we’ve already agreed that we’re OK with that. For example:

To speed up a conversation – one that you’re having trouble following – try the “let’s-sum-it-up” trick. Say something like, “Oh gosh, I’ve gotta run, can you sum this up in a text for me? Thanks so much, bye!”

In a three-way (or more) conversation that is challenging, you bluff like heck but later, you ask someone you trust, “What were we talking about and did I agree to anything?”

Change the topic, do all the talking, and then leave the room. This can be useful but might give you a reputation as arrogant if you use it too often.

If you’re discussing a subject that you know a lot about, but you’re having trouble keeping up, do your best to throw out a few zingers and hope someone doesn’t go, “I just said that!” This is one of my big fears, and I’m sorry I can’t suggest a snappy comeback, because I always just clam up. For a while.

A classic bluffing tactic is to copy other people. Adopt their looks – sad, interested, skeptical, amused, whatever. If you’re lucky, someone won’t ask you about why you have such a sad, happy, or skeptical face.

Wait for a break in the conversation, even if it’s just a nano-second that no one else seems to be using, and then jump in, perhaps with a subject-shift. Note: It’s important not to ‘step on’ someone else while they’re talking – this clearly signals to your friends or family that you’re in bluffing mode.

If all else fails, detach yourself from the conversation with an excuse, preferably not a lame one, and leave the room.

You may have other ideas on how to avoid active participation in conversations and feel free to share them. But, it must be noted that with most bluffing situations, you’ll probably use even more energy and incur more stress than when legitimately trying to communicate. Especially when you discover what you did agree to!

If you don’t let people know you’re having a bad hearing moment, they may assume something else about you. Aloof, arrogant, and not-all-there are assumptions made by hearing people. Let’s be honest; we will always bluff at times, especially the moments where our hearing loss backs us into corners with no easy escape routes. But even on bad hearing days, we have a choice. We can cheat our way out – but at what price?



About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, 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. Sorry but i had to chuckle at my own expense when you first mentioned being tired of the whole hearing effort we have to deal with every darn day. This past week I was fitted with a BTE hearing aid in the side opposite my BAHA implant. I’m now bi-modal for the first time. Whopee… Yesterday after spending most of the day trying to get used to the annoying thing now in one ear and yet realizing it helps I just got plain tired off the effort. I could hardly wait to get home and go blissfully, mostly deaf; well, as deaf as I can feel with tinnitus. I know I’m supposed to wear the new aid all day but felt wonderfully rebellious when I pulled it out. Relief! I’ll start over today and hope my naughty inner child doesn’t take over again.
    Thanks for voicing our thoughts.

  2. Is there a iPhone app to turn speech to captions?
    I used Captel on my iPhone, for conversation, but stopped, because it often stopped working a few minutes into conversations.

    1. I haven’t tried Live Transcribe, but Otter is excellent! I plan to try connecting it to a laptop to transcribe videos, too.

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