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Living with hearing loss can be difficult at times. Although your hearing aids should immensely improve your ability to hear, sometimes you still might have trouble hearing every word. If you have hearing loss but haven’t taken the steps to get hearing aids yet, you probably also spend a lot of time saying “What?” to the people around you. Constantly asking “What?” can get tiring, embarrassing, and frustrating, so let’s explore some other ways to ask those who you’re talking with to repeat themselves.


Be Specific


Many times, the problem with understanding someone is not just the volume at which they are talking. Perhaps they mumbled or covered their mouth unconsciously while speaking with you, or they were speaking far too fast for you to follow. Whatever the problem is, try to be specific when asking someone to repeat their sentence. Say “Sorry, could you repeat that slower?” or “Can you say that again, a little more clearly?” Just asking “What?” or “Pardon me?” can often cause whoever you’re speaking with to repeat themselves but at a louder volume, which may not be the root of the problem. Saying something along the lines of, “My hearing aids are turned all the way up—can you speak slower?” might do the trick!


Get Physical


Using nonverbal cues can also help people understand that you’re having trouble hearing them, even with your hearing aids. You could be overtly obvious and cup your hand over your ear, a sure sign that the speaker will probably get louder or ask you if you can hear them. This kind of gesture is probably best suited to use with close family and friends, though. Other physical movements you can use to signal to your conversation partner include tilting your head or one ear towards the speaker, stepping closer, or stretching your neck out towards them. And don’t forget the eyebrows—knitting your eyebrows together can be very effective in conveying that you’re having difficulty understanding them, especially if they are aware you wear hearing aids. You may be doing a lot of these movements without realizing it, but making a conscious effort could also be a good cue to help others realize you’re experiencing some trouble hearing them without having to verbalize it.


Take Your Time


Sometimes you might find yourself saying “Huh?” too quickly, even before your brain has finished processing what your conversation partner is saying. Everyone—people with hearing loss and people without—is guilty of this from time to time! A good practice is to deliberately take a second or two after someone is finished speaking, to give your brain the chance to determine whether you truly missed something or not. When the person you’re talking with finishes a sentence or thought, just take one or two deep breaths and then decide if you need them to repeat themselves or not. This practice can save both you and your friends and family a lot of unnecessary repetition!


Constantly asking your friends, family, and coworkers can get frustrating for both you and your conversation partner—sometimes there is no way around that. However, if you follow these tips you may find yourself asking “What?” a little less often!


By: Elena McPhillips