Mishearing is the act of hearing something incorrectly.

It happens to all of us at one time or another.  It happens more frequently when you have a hearing loss.  It can be pretty funny at times, other times, it can be downright frustrating.  Oliver Sacks wrote an op-ed in the June 5, 2015 edition of the New York Times titled “Mishearings”.  It is quite  good and I encourage you to google it. But I’ll share a portion of it here.  I found this to be very true in my own experience with hearing loss.


“Every mishearing is a novel concoction. The hundredth mishearing is as fresh and as surprising as the first. I am often strangely slow to realize that I have misheard, and I may entertain the most far-fetched ideas to explain my mishearings, when it would seem that I should spot them straight away. If a mishearing seems plausible, one may not think that one has misheard; it is only if the mishearing is sufficiently implausible, or entirely out of context, that one thinks, “This can’t be right,” and (perhaps with some embarrassment) asks the speaker to repeat himself, as I often do, or even to spell out the misheard words or phrases… While mishearings may seem to be of little special interest, they can cast an unexpected light on the nature of perception — the perception of speech, in particular. What is extraordinary, first, is that they present themselves as clearly articulated words or phrases, not as jumbles of sound. One mishears rather than just fails to hear.

Mishearings are not hallucinations, but like hallucinations they utilize the usual pathways of perception and pose as reality – it does not occur to one to question them.  But since all of our perceptions must be constructed by the brain, from often meager and ambiguous sensory data, the possibility of error or deception is always present. Indeed, it is a marvel that our perceptions are so often correct, given the rapidity, the near instantaneity, with which they are constructed.”

Are You Mishearing?

I stumbled across a website from an audiologist in England by the name of Curtis Alcock.  He does such a wonderful job with explaining things that I asked his permission to share his “Three Signs You May Be Mishearing” so here we go.

1.  “If You Ask to Repeat, Check Your Hearing’s Complete.”

Complete hearing means that our brains have access to all the individual parts of sound that make up speech – all the vowels and all the consonants.

If we ask to repeat it MAY be because someone is mumbling or because we’re unfamiliar with their accent.  But equally, it might be that our hearing range currently has some gaps in it.

We can’t easily change the way someone speaks, but we can make sure that we’re not the ones breaking the flow of conversation.  How? By routinely having our hearing checked, just as we do our eyes and teeth.

2.  “Noise interfering?  Check how you’re hearing.”

Noise always makes hearing more difficult, no matter how good our hearing.  It takes more effort and more concentration.

But it becomes much harder if our own hearing is not properly juggling all the different sounds.  It needs to be able to connect each sound to what and where it’s coming from.  That way our brain knows which sounds to focus us, and which ones to suppress.

It’s not easy to avoid noise in the modern world, but we can make sure we know how we’re hearing- by having our hearing professionally profiled.

3.  “Raising the volume, raising the tension?”

Watching television is still a shared activity for many of us, which means that we have to find a volume that’s comfortable to all.

If the volume is too loud or too quiet for us, it increases our stress levels.  Either we’re blasted with too much sound or we have to concentrate harder to make out what someone is saying or to follow the plot.  Often background music and accents make this all the more difficult.

When different viewers prefer different volumes, someone is forced to compromise.  Unless, of course, we are all having our hearing routinely checked.

Better to know before problems show.

We’re all in the same boat when it comes to mishearing.  But these 3 clues could save us a lot of embarrassment by acting as our own early warning signal.

As the saying goes, “It’s better to know before problems show.”  That way we can take the appropriate steps to prevent the consequences of mishearing – by keeping our hearing prepared, empowered, and protected.


Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.
— Brian Tracy