How to respond to casual throwaway remarks when you haven't heard them properly

Types of throwaway remarks

Casual and seemingly 'throw-away' remarks seem to come in two types.

One is the sort of remark that people make to be friendly or sociable like a comment about the weather.

The other looks and sounds like a throwaway remark but actually requires a response. An example could be from the shop assistant who mumbles for the hundredth time that day, "Would you like a bag for this?" while not giving any visual signals that an answer is expected.

One of the problems for deaf people is knowing the difference when neither have been heard adequately and both look similar.

Friendly types of throwaway remarks

Friendly types of throwaway remark are the easiest to handle, if you recognise then for what they are, because a nod and a smile normally suffice.

However, you may long to be sociable in response, but can't because of not knowing what has been said, so not being able to build on it. If you are going to see a reasonable amount of the person concerned, an explanation is in order, but that seems rather excessive as a response to a casual comment from a stranger. So you never get to know potential friends.

Apparently throwaway remarks that expect an answer

Outstanding questions about handling throwaway remarks

There don't seem to be any totally satisfactory strategies for handling throw-away remarks. I have mulled over various possibilities, all of which seem to have disadvantages as well as advantages:

Would it help for deaf people wear a T-shirt with writing on like "I am not stupid or unsociable, just deaf"? Probably yes, but the downside would be that it would draw unnecessary attention, particularly from people who wouldn't be speaking to them anyway. So it seems rather over-the-top in normal circumstances, although I have seen it work well for a market tradesman.

Would it help for deaf people to have a selection of cards showing various messages to present to people who make remarks that aren't heard? Again, probably yes, but by the time that the right card has been located, the moment has almost certainly gone.

Would it help to wear a badge about being deaf? I have some experience of this - see badge.

Would it help to exaggerate one's deafness in some circumstances so that people give up trying to interact? After all, learning the needs of a deaf person takes time and is different from one individual to another. and it isn't reasonable to expect anyone but close family, friends and colleagues to make that effort.

Can you suggest a solution?

The apparently throwaway remark that actually requires an answer just makes deaf people look and feel stupid because of the strange look from the person making it. They are expecting a sensible response to what they see as a sensible query.

Eventually you may have to explain, but it is embarrassing and long-winded. I have found that a deaf badge helps because I just smile and touch it to direct their gaze to it.

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Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.