Chronicle of a deaf audiologist

Words That Hurt

Why You Should Not Say “Never Mind” to a Person With Hearing Loss


The following is from the book A Quiet World, by David G. Myers, a psychologist with hearing loss.

“Never mind.” How familiar those words are to the hard of hearing.

“Ted said that the doctor wanted her…”

“I’m sorry?”

“Ted said that the doctor wanted her…”

“Ted said what?”

“Oh, never mind.”

Photo credit:  ©Devonsun

Sometimes the information is trivial and not worth the effort of repetition. Sometimes the words are spoken for my ears only, so cannot be spoken more loudly.

Regardless, “never mind” is an acknowledgement of mutual frustration and failure. With these words—among the easiest to lip-read because of their context and familiarity—typically comes a brief flash of pain: a reminder of your deficiency, a twinge of loss, a fleeting awareness that you will never know what it is that, an instant ago, seemed worth saying.

I do not blame those who utter those stinging words, which sometimes are accompanied by a shake of the head, rolled eyes, or a dismissive gesture. What else should people do? What would I do in their place? Still, I am grateful that my sensitive and clear-voiced closest friends—is their clear articulation one reason they are my closest friends?—never utter those words.

Follow Up post:

What NOT to do When Speaking to a Person with Hearing Loss (PWHL)

Related Posts:

Reminding Others About Your Hearing Loss

Is our hearing loss skin too thin?

  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Rehabilitation teacher, and Canadian author, who does not remember saying on her first day of wearing hearing aids: "Mom, I can hear my shoelaces!"

3 thoughts on “Words That Hurt”

  1. We’ve all been there. It just shows lack of patience in people when they say that. I don’t think they’re TRYING to be rude..I think they think that they don’t want to add to our frustration of trying to understand. My daughter once said that to me and I said plainly, “honey…I’m trying to grasp what it is you’re trying to say. Maybe you can tell me in another way?” She did and loved the lightbulb that flicked on in my eyes when I understood what she was telling me.

    1. Never mind is a newer one for me. I make my needs pretty clear when I meet someone. I wear HAs now but can go from hearing to completely deaf in a fraction of a second. When meeting someone new I make my needs as clear as I can. Example: I am deaf but I speech read. Is it possible for you to look directly at me and speak slowly. That way I can understand what you are saying. It only gets dicey when I forget to speak slowly as well. I used to speak rapidly – and often still do. When this happens, the person who is talking to me picks up their pace as well.

      1. Sandra Vandenhoff

        Good strategy!

        What a great idea to slow down your own speech so that others will too. Thanks for sharing it with us! ~Sandra

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