Why Can’t I Understand Accents?
Accents can affect hearing and understanding conversations. Do you avoid conversations with someone who has an accent? Do you struggle with understanding regional or foreign accents? Many blame the accent but it may just be your hearing!!
Miscommunication is easy within any region or language. Especially with those who have a different manner of speaking. Understanding accents is difficult for all but can be more problematic when you have even a mild hearing loss. Your brain works harder to fill in the gaps because your ears are not sending complete information to the brain.
We all use our native, childhood language to help us “fill in the blank” for a missed word. This includes intonation, cadence and grammar. Typically, the conversation proceeds without a hitch! But when you have even a slight hearing loss, accents send more gaps of unfamiliar information to your brain – and is unable to make sense of what you hear.
Someone who has an accent may be speaking your language but use different sentence structure. The cadence and inflection may be different and unfamiliar. As a result, your brain is unable to “decode” what is being said. Add a slight hearing loss and this creates more gaps -making it more difficult to follow conversations.
Accents place additional stress on a weakened area of hearing. You may have a reduced region of hearing that compounds the problem for your brain.
What to do?:
- Verify and Clarify: “Just to be clear, you said that I leave from gate #25?”
- Practice: Listen to movies, podcasts, radio, TV that include accented speech. This will help your brain acclimate to different intonation and grammar patterns.
- Don’t pretend to understand: Say, “I am having trouble understanding you. Please slow down a bit so I can get it correctly.”
- Don’t hurry the conversation so it will end quickly. This is rude to the speaker.