What I Heard vs. What You Said

If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I’d be happy to do it for you.

Groucho Marx

I sat next to my husband as we drove to our favorite taco café – I ❤ Tacos. I asked about his day. He answered. I had no idea what he said. I waited. Should I ask him to repeat himself, or just let it slide?

He looked at me. “You didn’t hear what I said, did you?”


I’m hearing impaired. I wear hearing aids, but they don’t always work. Sometimes background noises, especially road noises, cancel out other sounds. He could have been shouting and I may not have understood his words.

That’s life for a hearing-impaired person. And then there are the times someone speaks to me and I don’t respond. I’m not being rude–I can’t hear you. That’s what happened the other day when one of my neighbors was in her yard down in the court. When I walked out to the mailbox, I lifted my hand to greet her. She waved back. On the way back to the house, something told me she had spoken to me.

I looked again and she was gone. The next time I saw her out, I apologized and confessed that I don’t always hear when someone speaks.

I learned something important when I went to an outdoor concert with friends. Hearing aids can actually “overhear”. The loud music that my friends enjoyed so much actually hurt my ears. I had to turn off my hearing aids. If I ever attend another concert, I will take my noise-cancelling headphones. I might look silly, but I will be comfortable. Oh, and when my friends tried to communicate with me, I could not hear them at all, so we ended up texting one another.

And laughing. A lot.

A few helpful things you can do when you speak to someone who is hearing-impaired:

  • Make eye contact – we hear better if we can see you talking
  • Text, don’t call – telephone conversations are difficult!
  • If you must call, follow up with a text when details matter
  • You don’t have to shout, just enunciate better
  • Try not to lose your temper when we ask you to repeat something

Oh, and if you want to share a secret with me, and whisper it in my ear–believe me–your secret is completely safe with me. I cannot hear that whisper! 🙂