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If you have trouble hearing, you may be a culprit of creating meaning from the wrong interpretation of what was said. This is fairly common when it comes to listening to songs on the radio. When we don’t know what the singer is saying, our mind fills in the blanks with what seems to fit with the beat. For example, if you didn’t know the words to our National Anthem, “and the toilet’s last cleaning” may sounds just as correct in place of “at the twilight’s last gleaming.” While this example is particularly amusing, some people can go their whole lives believing the wrong lyrics.

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Oronyms and the Brain

There is actually a word to describe this grammatical phenomenon- oronyms. Oronyms are sequences of words or even complete phrases that sound similar to each other, and our brain employs them often – particularly with those who have trouble hearing. Unlike homonyms where the words sound the same with different spelling (e.g. there, their, they’re), oronyms can be multiple words used in conjunction together to confuse the brain.


There is a specific region of the brain called the angular gyrus that uses all previous knowledge to fill in gaps with predictable words. If you are missing whole phrases or even just the last syllable of a word, it is this section of the brain that completes the sentence for you without you consciously having to employ this method. If you hear the waiter tell you the fish of the day is “sal,” your brain will fill in the missing “mon” syllable. Similarly, if someone says, “let’s play it by hear,” your angular gyrus quickly determines for you that you misheard the last word based on past experiences with the common phrase “let’s play it by ear.” So, those who have trouble hearing rely more strongly on their angular gyrus to enable them not to miss out on any part of the conversation.


Common Misheard Sentences


Grammar and neurology aside, there can be some funny misheard sentence from those who have trouble hearing. Here’s some you may have run into:


  1. You’re watching Wheel of Fortune and hear that tonight’s contestant has the chance to win a new toy Yoda. While that may be the case, the grand prize of a new Toyota may be more exciting…
  2. We’ve all heard that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, but what if you heard that Jack was made a doughboy?
  3. After a fun potluck, a friend comments on your positive outlook on life – “You make the best of what’s around.” Before diving into a philosophical conversation, consider they may have just told you “You make the best hot stew around.”
  4. When your spouse orders nice water, this could be a little confusing. Maybe they just asked for an ice water.
  5. Your child just told you that reading in the library is always loud. We all know libraries are quiet, so what did they really say to you? Reading in the library is always allowed.
  6. At a job interview, let’s hope you don’t get this one wrong. “What’s the biggest turtle you’ve overcome?” Don’t panic and think about the reptile. Instead, consider the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome.
  7. For Christmas, there is no way your dad wants grape ants. Perhaps he would appreciate grey pants though.


If you have trouble hearing and continually mishear sentences, maybe it’s time to think about a hearing aid in 2017!


By: Diana Michel