“Never mind” is one of the most demoralizing things you can say to someone who’s hard of hearing. Add an eyeroll, and you might as well slap us upside the head.
I am self-conscious as it is asking you to say it again. It's embarrassing. It stalls the conversation. It causes confusion. It breaks the flow.
And it provokes judgment. For those of us who are younger or have no outward signs of hearing loss, such as visible hearing aids or speech differences, people assume we’re not listening. Or being disrespectful. Or that we’re not very intelligent.
If I make myself vulnerable enough to ask for a repeat, it’s because I care more about what you have to say than I do about my own comfort.
Trust me – if I make myself vulnerable enough to ask for a repeat, it’s because I care more about what you have to say than I do about my own comfort. So when you dismiss me with a “never mind,” it’s like telling me I don’t matter enough to be in this conversation.
I know what you’re thinking: If I say never mind, I don’t mean any harm! I just realized the thing you didn’t hear wasn’t worth saying after all!
And guess what? That’s a perfectly valid reason to say never mind. As humans, sometimes our mouths run faster than our brains, and we’re reminded to slow down. There are times when we wish we could alt-Z that last statement, for any reason big or small. And if someone didn’t hear you, that’s your chance to undo!
If I shouldn’t mind, tell me why! For instance, “Never mind, it was an overshare,” or “Never mind, I didn’t think it through,” or “Never mind, I spoke too soon.”
Or “Never mind, Michael Jordan is about to make his epic full-court stretch-arm buzzer-beater dunk and by no means needs to pass the ball to Bill Murray.”
You could also say what I’m afraid you’re thinking, “Never mind, I don’t feel like saying it again because I’m annoyed you’re making me repeat myself.” But alas, then I’ll be the one judging you!
If you do your part in telling me why I shouldn’t mind, I will do mine. Rather than just a “What?” or a “Huh?” I’ll say specifically, “Could you please say that a little louder?” or “Could you please say that one more time only facing me?”
Let’s make hearing habits out of these never mind norms! There are many situations where we simply need to speak up (ahem, masks?) whether someone is hard of hearing or not. And lest we forget, more people are walking around with hearing loss than anyone knows.
TL:DR? Speak so all can hear you! NORMALIZE louder voices!