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I didn’t hear you, can you repeat that?


Pardon? Say what? Come again? Say that again? Eh? Can you repeat that? Sorry? You what? Aye? I missed that? Hmm?
It doesn’t matter how you say it, they all mean the same thing: you didn’t hear what was just said.

I’ve been thinking recently about how often I don’t hear what someone has said and how often I ask them to repeat themselves. In some situations I will ask repeatedly, no matter how many time it takes, until I hear. In others, I will only ask once or twice. And, in others, I will not ask at all.

With family and close friends I am happy to ask repeatedly; most, if not all, of them know I am partially deaf and they are usually happy to repeat themselves until the cows come home. Sometimes, and I guess it depends on their mood, they don’t want to repeat themselves – this annoys me quite a bit, if what they just said is not worth repeating why was it worth saying in the first place?

The people I really struggle with are the quietly and soft spoken ones. Some people just refuse to speak up and it will not matter how many times I ask them to repeat it, I will never hear them properly! I find myself avoiding speaking to people who I know speak really quietly, just to avoid the hassle – I wish I didn’t do this because I’m sure it looks rude to them and I’m no doubt missing out on some good conversation. The obvious answer here is to tell them that I have trouble hearing what they say; I really don’t feel comfortable doing that and I can’t remember a time when I ever have done. I really should make the effort to start in future.

In the opening paragraph I said that in some cases I will never ask the person to repeat themselves. I used to do this a lot – I used to be too embarrassed about my hearing loss, I tried to hide it as much as possible – I would either try and guess what they said based on the odd word I’d heard or the context of the conversation or simply nod, laugh or give a short answer like “yes” or “no”. I realised some years ago that this was a stupid thing to do, I cringe at the amount of times I must have given stupid and meaningless answers. I’m sure a lot of people do this exact thing all the time, it’s an easy way out.

It’s rarely uncomfortable to ask someone to repeat themselves in a one-to-one conversation; a group conversation can, on the other hand, be very difficult. It is a good idea to position yourself somewhere where you will have the best chance of hearing; this is something you can do when you know that one person in the group is going to be doing most of the talking: the teacher at school/college, someone giving a presentation to a group, and so on. It’s not so easy when you don’t have a single person to concentrate on: when you are chatting with friends or in an office meeting, it is particularly difficult if there is also background noise such as backgound chatter or office air-conditioning. It is too easy to loose the conversation when you are having to listen for voices coming from all directions.

How do you cope with not hearing someone say something? Do you ask them to repeat? If you wear hearing-aids, do they have the ability to cope with group situations? What do you do to minimise these problems for yourself?


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