What Did You Miss When You Pretended to Hear?

People with hearing loss are cheaters. Well, most of us are. And we don’t cheat all the time – just when other people are talking to us. Which is a lot of the time.

But saying that we’re cheaters doesn’t mean we’re not nice people. Most of us are fabulous! We just have a little problem: ‘fessing up when we’re not hearing and/or understanding whoever or whatever is talking to us.

A nicer name for a cheater is a bluffer, but it’s essentially the same thing. We give the impression – sometimes going to great lengths to give it – that we are fully absorbing the information being conveyed to us, but because of our hearing loss, we’re not. A good way to tell if we’re bluffing is to look at us. If we seem utterly entranced by what you’re saying, and don’t offer much in return except a lot of little noises like ah, hmm, and I see, accompanied by appropriate facial expressions, we are most likely bluffing.

But if you’re an habitual bluffer (like me), have you ever wondered if, during all that nodding and smiling over the years, you may have missed some important information? Crucial info that could have changed your life?! Or, on a less dramatic scale, you missed something things that, if understood, would have changed your actions that day?

Here some examples of life-changing stuff that I found out later that I missed out on because of stubborn bluffing.

An expression of affection that could have carried a relationship further. To marriage, maybe.

Exactly what my boss was expecting from me by end of day.

What people were saying on the phone when I took a job as a front desk receptionist. (What was I thinking in even taking that job?!)

Everything that most very little children ever said to me.

Sometimes we assume that the message is not important enough to go to the effort of saying pardon, could you repeat that, please? My friend Keith Golem, who also has hearing loss, recently wrote to me with his story.

A week ago, I spent a few days in New York visiting my daughter. While there, I took the Amtrak into Manhattan from the train station near my daughter. Everything went well.

The return trip – not so well. On my way back, the ticket-taker came around and in the course of checking my ticket he said something which I didn’t understand and gestured with his hand. Instead of asking him to repeat his message, I assumed it was probably not a critical piece of information and simply nodded and smiled.

However, I was unaware that at small whistle stops the train stops for literally only two minutes and not all the exit doors open. This, of course, was the information the ticket-taker had been trying to impart.

As we pulled into the station, I went to the nearest door and couldn’t get it to open. I tried another nearby door with the same result. I then ran down the aisle to the car behind mine but was about five seconds late in arriving at the correct exit. The train had started to move and I was on my way to the next whistle stop 20 minutes up the line.

I had a moment of panic during which I dearly wished I had asked the ticket-taker to repeat what he had said. In the end, the ticket-taker was very kind and gave me a free pass back to my stop. You can bet I was very proactive in determining which exit door I needed to use to get off the train on my second arrival at my stop!

Now, you might think that Keith’s story of bluffing doesn’t rank high on the list of  life-changing moments. But maybe it was. Maybe the embarrassment of having people laugh as they watched him run like a crazy guy from door to door was enough to get Keith to stop making assumptions about what people say. Or maybe not, I’ll wait for Keith to check in on that one.

What about you?

People with hearing loss get irate when people say oh never mind when we ask them to repeat themselves. How do you think the hearing people would feel if they realized we were cheating our way through a conversation? Have you ever thought about their feelings – have you?

Life is challenging enough these days – don’t miss out on the good stuff by pretending to hear, or assuming what you heard. It’s true that not everything coming out of people’s mouths is interesting, intelligent or amazing – but most of it is worth understanding!

Feature Photo: Thesaurus.com

About Gael Hannan

The Better HearingConsumer addresses the personal experience of living with hearing loss. Editor Gael Hannan and her occasional guest bloggers explore every corner of the hearing loss life with humor and poignancy. Comment Policy   Gael Hannan, Editor Gael Hannan is an author, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog at the Better Hearing Consumer, which has a passionate international following,Gael has written two acclaimed books, “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”and “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, written with Shari Eberts. 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 that advocates for individuals to become more knowledgeable and successful at dealing with their hearing loss and a more inclusive society for them to live in. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, Canada. Books and other media Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. Written with Shari Eberts and available anywhere books are sold. The Way I Hear It: A Life With Hearing Loss. Available through online bookstores. Unheard Voices, DVD, vignettes from the hearing loss life. Contact Gael Hannan to order.


  1. Great article.
    It is the reality today and most people think that its bad to tell the truth about their hearing status.
    On the other hand it is rather impolite towards the other person who is doing all the talking and not being aware that you are bluffing.
    So, let us be real and accept our hearing loss and seek professional help !

  2. You are right, Gael. My experience with the train wasn’t life-changing. But it caused me unnecessary stress and embarrassment, and added another hour to an already long journey back to my home in Ontario. Just think of the sum total of all the embarrassing moments and wasted time that arise over a lifetime if we bluff. It’s much better if we ‘fess up immediately when we don’t understand what our communication partner is saying.

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