In the movie Revolutionary Road, the last scene is powerful and apt—a man turns down his hearing aid while pretending to listen to his wife. He is doing more than just ignoring. He is escaping from her.
In A Screaming Kind of Day, a beautifully illustrated children’s book by Rachna Gilmore, a young hearing impaired girl named Scully, also escapes. Scully is hardly even out of bed, has not even put her hearing aids in yet, and already she knows it’s a screaming kind of day. She wants to go outside and feel the rain on her face. Her mom says, no.
Scully sneaks outside. There’s a lovely illustration with her face turned up to the sky, feeling the drops on her face. She swings around and around.
Her mom catches her outside, and calls her from the window. She waves, “Come back inside now.” Scully pretends that she does not see and takes off for the woods.
That part of the story immediately twigged a memory of pretending not to hear with my own mother. She’d ask me to go down to the basement and get something out of the freezer for dinner. I’d stay silent, pretending I had not heard.
I remember it was my very first realization that hearing loss could have its advantages. I was gleeful.
As an adult, I no longer pretend to listen. I think this should be a communication rule for people with hearing loss: no pretending to listen.
Our close relationships can already be fraught with communication breakdowns and misunderstandings because of hearing loss.
Examples: sometimes we bluff. We pretend to hear. (This is different from pretending to listen.) This is universal among people with hearing loss.
Sometimes we think we’ve understood, but we haven’t. That’s inevitable.
So adding pretending to listen to the mix? Not good. People we are close to have to make a special effort to communicate with us. We have to make an effort, too. Pretending to listen is just a bad communication habit.
Do you pretend? Do you wilfully not listen?
The last line of “A Screaming Kind of Day” says, “If I am very quiet, I might just hear the stars sing.” Does your hearing loss have its advantages?