November 1, 2010

Conversational Delay

I read Jamie Berke's Conversational Delay a Normal Thing? with great interest. She wrote about a (most likely) hearing woman's frustration with her deaf husband who seems to hear what is being said but doesn't respond in a timely manner.

The comments left so far have really helped to clarify what could be happening and why.

It’s definitel a ‘deaf thing’ I am late deafened. I hear sound, but can’t make sense of the speech sounds I hear. It can take me awhile to ‘fill in the blanks’ and because that’s not a conscious thing, my brain sometimes fills them in incorrectly leading to a super off the wall non-sensical sentence. I then have to start over and think. This all happens within a matter of seconds, but the delay can seem long to a hearing person. 

Yeah, SOME deaf people naturally have auditory processing disorder. Even if they hear them, it take a while to process. Which is why some of us habitually say “what” all the time even though we heard them (another reason why we say what all the time because we are never confidence with what we heard)…. I think it is worst if a deaf person was diagnosed late.
I do the same thing! I find myself delaying my response often. I understand that it can be annoying or that I am making the other person uncomfortable with me staring at them blankly as I am "filling in the blanks."

This would be an example of my thought process during the delay:

"OK, he was pointing to the TV, he is watching that movie and he said,"It's really good. Should watch it." Now I think he is asking me a question. Geez, we were just talking about the oil spill, and now he is talking about this movie. Aaargh! A brand new topic that has nothing to do with what we were just talking about! OK, concentrate, Elizabeth. He is pointing to the TV showing a movie. He obviously asked a question, so maybe he was asking me if I saw the movie? Oh, you know what? He did ask, "Have you seen it?" I remember now. All right, now I must answer him."

By the time I have answered, ten to twenty seconds have passed. Either the person thought I was not listening or did not hear and is repeating the question or the person is staring at me wondering what is wrong with me.

Also, it seems as if I habitually say "What?" in most conversations. I am always ready or getting ready to say "Eh? What? Huh?"  I never thought about why I do this or was aware that I probably do this often. Is it because of lack of confidence? Do I always expect that I am not going to hear what is being said? Of course. Because I have trouble hearing. I always expect that I will have trouble hearing what is being said. Whenever you have trouble in any area, you are expecting to fail or struggle with it all the times. Sometimes I surprise myself with the fact that I correctly heard or guessed what was said in a noisy restaurant area.

I am going to print out this article and give it to some teachers and parents, just to bring more awareness. Perhaps it will make some of them realize that it is not that we don't listen or care to respond half the times, our brains are working hard at processing the information as we participate in fun guessing games.



  1. Yes. I'm the same, and will delay before answering because I want to make sure what I think was said, was actually said before speaking. Rather than jump in with the answer and be wrong, like I've done in the past. Or say eh, what, pardon or a.

  2. lol

    I can't help but laugh at what you described. Yes, it has happened to me. With people I know more - am comfortable with, more - I might shoot back a response something like "Are you asking me what I think of the movie?" with a funny expression on my face. And, I might get an answer like: Yes, what did you think I said? or something or the other. But, with people I don't know...uhh yeah.. It happens. I make a joke out of it, I do. I don't know if that is a good thing or not but, it seem to put people at ease. ;)

    But, lately I've noticed when I have the radio on in my car, I can understand almost everything. I seem to pick it up more and that is without having any lips to watch. I'm thinking, when someone start talking to me, perhaps I should turn away and not look at the person...maybe I will understand everything? ;)
    It is such a big risk..


  3. A lot of hearing ppl don't realize the effort of lipreading which often causes a few seconds' delay in responding to them, because my brain is still making connections with missed gaps between words or phrases, facial gestures, etc. There's often that impatient "Well?" before I'll answer.

    I usually fall back on a stock of snappy comebacks like "Oh, hey, Mumbles, you mean ____?" or "What you yammering about?" Sometimes light banter loosens things up and the other person will repeat himself without the exasperation. ;)


  4. I do have a delay in processing what I hear and my brain is busy trying to fill in the "gaps." My brain goes into fast forward, thinking did they say, "Cheese, please, sneeze, geez, bees....." especially when there are no contextual clues in the sentence or environment. Many times, I'm trying to "listen" so intently, that I cannot hold in my brain what I am going to say next...

  5. I sometimes answer someone's question with a question..."Are you asking me if I want this item?" etc...also with my lipreading skills (or lack thereof) I catch maybe 2 words in a 10 word sentence.

    I've got some kind of delay going on that is for sure! lol

  6. Oh good, I thought I was the only one... it takes a few seconds to run over the list of possible words and match it to the context of the conversation. I also notice that a lot of times, I'll start responding to what I think I heard, and then realize that I didn't hear the other person correctly and have to correct myself in the middle of the conversation. Kind of awkward sometimes, but I just try to laugh it off. Eh well. Hearing people do that sometimes, too. ;)

  7. I think this is silly.

    Some people, hearing or deaf, just don't respond.

    Also, it pretends that hearing people always speak clearly and well, which, let me tell you, they don't. Many have terrible grammar and pronunciation, and could benefit from speech and language therapy.

  8. What? I can't read this immediately. My brain needed to process this in about five seconds.






    Okay! I get it. Good post. ;)

    Just kidding. I definitely have the same issue hearing what other people said to me. It takes me a little bit of time to process and understand the message before I could respond, but it does not hurt to ask them to repeat what they said to make sure I understand them clearly.

  9. I only have mild hearing loss but I often miss hear questions and either have to have them repeat it or I ask what they said but before they finish telling me I respond, often i do this with out much consious thought but if i'm in a noisy place and i'm not paying much attention then it's rare that I will hear things if I wasn't expecting to be spoken to


Keep it civil.