What did you just say ‘yes’ to?  

The Smile and Nod: 

A rarely useful set of actions carried out unable to understand what someone has said to you. Usually occurs after two unsuccessful rounds of “What was that?”, “Sorry?” or “Pardon?”.

We’ve all done it, hearing loss or not, whether in a club, at a party or in a loud, crowded restaurant. But as you probably well know, smiling (sometimes even laughing) and nodding in response to something you haven’t actually heard can get you into a bit of trouble.

Seinfeld dedicated an episode to The Smile and Nod

In ‘Puffy Shirt’ Jerry unwittingly agrees to wear a flouncy ‘pirate’ shirt on the Today Show when he nods and says “uh huh” despite not hearing a question asked by Kramer’s ‘low-talking’ stylist girlfriend. 

You can watch a snippet of the episode on YouTube.

puffy shirt
The result of The Smile and Nod. Not a good look. Unless you’re a pirate…

It can seem easier to smile and nod than to say you didn’t understand, and therefore unwanted attention to your hearing loss. However, this can make you look a bit silly when The Smile and Nod is an inappropriate response to what’s been said.

It could look something like this:

So what do you do for work? *smile and nod*

Do you have the time? *smile and nod* (crickets)

Martha’s in the hospital. *smile and nod*

I’ve put together a list of the top 3 scenarios in which you may be tempted to use The Smile and Nod, and what you can do to avoid your own Puffy Shirt disaster.

 1. When it feels like everyone around you is a low talker.

Are people all around you speaking indistinctly, without bothering to enunciate properly? Feeling as if everyone is mumbling could be a sign that you’re not hearing as well as you once did. 

britta smile and nod

Other tell-tale signs of hearing loss include struggling to understand higher pitched voices or to follow conversations in a group or in background noise.

Avoid the Puffy Shirt.

Take a clinically evidenced online hearing screening test, or make an appointment with a good hearing professional or your GP.

A hearing professional can let you know if you have age or noise-related hearing loss; or if your hearing difficulties are caused by an underlying medical condition. Impaired hearing can also be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup.

Discovering the cause of your hearing loss will help you find the appropriate treatment plan, which will improve your life wonderfully.

Smile and nod image

2. When you don’t want others to know you can’t hear them.

When you have a hearing loss it can seem easier to smile and nod rather than asking someone to repeat something – especially when you don’t want them to know you have an impairment. 

By avoiding letting people know you have a hearing loss, you could end up giving the impression that either you are mentally challenged or just not interested in what they are saying. Or that you do indeed have a hearing problem!

Avoid the Puffy Shirt.

Try asking the person to repeat just the part that you missed or,  better yet, give them an idea of what you did understand so they know that you don’t need them to repeat the whole thing.

Daniel Pistritto found that he can make these difficult situations much easier for himself by making the person he needs to speak to aware right away that he has a hearing loss. Try it yourself!

You will probably pleasantly surprised to find that, by taking an assertive (while pleasant and polite) approach to your needs as someone with a hearing disability, most people will be more than willing to help you out.

3. When listening becomes too tiring.  

After straining to hear and understand what’s being said all day, it can be a relief to just tune out. Listening fatigue is a real thing, hearing aids or not.

Avoid the Puffy Shirt.

You can take some of the pressure off your ears by wearing hearing aids that are fitted and programmed specifically for you.

Well tuned hearing aids allow sounds and speech to be heard easier, which lets your ears interpret and process sounds easier and faster.

And sometimes you just need to take a break. Allow for ‘quiet-times’ during the day to help relieve your ears. Find a quiet place to sit and be alone, or go for a walk outside.

By the end of the day, it’s perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself and take an extended listening break. Remove or turn down your hearing aids, mute the TV or radio and read a book, surf the internet or write alone.

SHARE your Puffy Shirt experience, or your tips for avoiding them, in the comments below!

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