Probably due to plain old aging, my hearing — or, perhaps, my hearing comprehension specifically — has become poorer in recent years. I find this most noticeable in conversation, as I fail to understand utterances made in my direction with increasing frequency.

I’ve tried to describe what it sounds like from my end, but as with many subjective experiences I find it strangely not possible. The closest I’ve managed: it’s a bit like the first and last consonants of words drop out of reach, even though at the same time I know I heard them. No, that doesn’t make a great deal of objective sense.

I have at least noticed it much more likely to happen with unexpected communication, particularly if I don’t happen to face the speaker at that moment. As such, I’ve learned to simply adjust my facing when when I ask for a statement to be repeated, and that helps. But here is another adjustment I have made: I’ve learned to ask for repeats less often.

For a while, I would aggressively say “What?” all the time, and got to point where I started aggravating myself with how much like a cranky old man I sounded because I didn’t want to let a single statement go past my person without my full comprehension. But over time, and perhaps informed by my embrace of a philosophy to not read every single social-media update I can, I eased into a less completionist stance.

If it seems from context that a given utterance does not require immediate attention for processing and then response, then I’ll make an educated guess as to its broad content based on what I could make out, and what I know of the speaker and the situation we presently find ourselves in. If my guess seems to call for a response, I’ll make a stab at it. I will otherwise let it go.

I don’t claim to be perfect at this, and certainly I hit false positives now and again. But such mistakes make their presence known in short order, and then I need only turn to face the speaker and apologetically ask them to repeat the question. So far, I find the need to do this every so often far more pleasant than earhorning “Eh?” countless times daily.


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