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I Can't Hear You
Sesame Street pair Bert and Ernie show us one of the variations.

Mrs. Thimble: Mr. Mouseling, you said I'll let you know if the music is too loud! Well, it is!
Mr. Mouseling: What? I can't hear you. The music's too loud.
Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, "Angelina and the New Music Store"

A conversation is impeded by either a lot of ambient noise, the hearing problems of one or more of the conversants, or an unusual obstruction in the ear of one of the conversants.

So one person yells something. And the other person, auditorially impeded, yells back, resulting in:

  1. I can't hear you! (Repeats the first person's statement back verbatim)
  2. I can't hear you, I've got an unusual obstruction in my ear!
  3. (Response to a question that was not asked, but may rhyme)
  4. ...the din stops just as the other person gets fed up with trying to shout above the noise and yells something inappropriate/embarrassing.

A common variation is to invoke the trope. One of the people in the conversation really doesn't want to have the conversation and is grateful for the noise making it impossible to talk and understand each other
  • or is calling out the other person in the conversation...
  • or is pretending there's noise making it impossible to converse.

This is also a stock phrase for the Drill Sergeant Nasty, in whose case it doesn't literally denote lack of hearing, but rather "You need to call me 'sir' when you say that."

Related to Fake Static for transmitted conversations, and an opposing trope to Acoustic License. Often sets up a Sustained Misunderstanding gag. See also Ear Trumpet. Mondegreen for misheard lyrics.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books 
  • Tintin is full of jokes like these when Professor Tournesol/Calculus appears.
    • Also much earlier in Cigars of the Pharaoh, when Tintin awakes on a drifting sarcophagus and sees the Egyptologist in another, too far away to understand each other.
  • At the end of B.P.R.D.: 1946, Sgt. Maes and Trevor Bruttenholm try to shout over the din of a launching rocket. Neither can hear the other.
  • Invoked in Wolverine and the X-Men:
    Logan: Kitty's in charge until I get back.
    Bobby: Nobody's seen Kitty in two days!
    Logan: Then you're in charge.
    Bobby: [alarmed] Me?! No. I didn't agree to that.
    Logan: I can't hear you, headmaster Iceman!
  • The elderly Miss Molly keeps mishearing things comically in the Donald Duck comic Paperinik e l'indimenticabile Aida. She's actually a young burglar in disguise, and the hard-of-hearing schtick is part of her façade.

     Fan Works 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Movie, after Kaiba jumps on top of his Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon:
    Kaiba: Now, Yugi, prepare to suffer defeat at the hands of my—
    Yugi: (faraway) I can't hear you!
    Kabia: What?
    Yugi: (faraway) I said I can't hear you! Come back down, you look really silly up there!
    Kaiba: I don't understand what you're saying! I think I might be too high up!
    • The situation is remedied when the two start talking over a Split Screen.
  • Calvin and Hobbes do this in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series when the former character is outside, trying to fix the satellite dish.
    • Subverted - in part 2, when confessing things, Calvin admits he was just playing with Hobbes.
  • In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers fanfic Under the Bridge, Widget and Jürgen are temporarily deafened by the report of a Darned Nearly Recoilless Rifle in an enclosed space, and spend a couple of lines explaining this to each other.
  • In one story of the Facing The Future Series, two of Walker's guards have to put up with the racket of a captured Paulina. When the first mentions putting in a request to put her in suspended animation, the second guard, with his hands over his ears, yells "What?"

     Film (Animated) 
  • Disney's The Princess and the Frog:
    Naveen: Ray! Get me out of this box!
    Ray: I can't hear you! I'mma get you outta this box!
  • From Care Bears To The Rescue Movie:
    Bumpity: It's getting so windy, I can hardly hear you!
    Tweazle: What? I can't hear you, it's too windy!
  • In the first Tinker Bell movie, Bobble tries to ask Clank if he's seen Tink, unaware that Clank has put in earplugs. After a few tries with Clank mishearing a word that rhymes with 'tink,' he takes out his earplugs and asks "Hey, have you seen Tink?"
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po delivers an epic speech to Lord Shen, the Big Bad of the film, while on a rooftop half a mile away, without even noticing that no one (including the audience) can make out what he's saying.
    Po: Shen! A panda stands between you and your—
    (cut to Shen, who can barely hear Po say "destiny")
    Shen: (shouting) WHAT?!
    (cut back to Po)
    Po: Prepare yourself for a hot—
    (cut again to Shen, who can still barely hear anything)
    Shen: (softer) What?

     Film (Live-Action) 
  • DEBS. Amy and Janet are driving in an open-top car, so there's a lot of noise making it difficult to talk.
    Amy: I'm just not in love.
    Janet: What?
    [The car stops, as does the noise]
    Amy: I said, I want to be in love!
    Janet: Why are you yelling?
  • Too-loud disco music in Boogie Nights:
    "Doesn't it make you nervous when you're dealing with all those evil forces?"
    "Horses?"
    "No, the evil forces."
    "Evil?! Nah, man. It's not evil. It's an illusion!"
    "Yeah! It's confusin'!"
  • The film Abbott and Costello in Hollywood contains a classic sequence (mislabeled on the site) in which Lou offers Bud earplugs so that he won't hear a sleep-inducing record Lou's using. Unfortunately, whoever's wearing them can't hear a thing.

     Literature 
  • The Sisters Grimm: The elder sister and the grandmother have a conversation of the second type because of how loud the rattletrap of a car is.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry's elderly landlady is hard of hearing so they have a conversation of the second type in Changes.
  • The old music hall routine, beloved of P. G. Wodehouse:
    Pat (on the train): Pardon me, is this Wembley?
    Mike: No, it's Thursday!
    Pat: Yes, so am I!
  • Happens briefly in Wraith Squadron, courtesy of a subversion of Steel Ear Drums.
  • The Silver Chair has this done by the old, hard-of-hearing dwarf Trumpkin, who, among other things, mishears the protagonists' names ("Eustace" as "useless"), and eventually complaints that people these days don't talk clearly.
  • The Legend of Rah and the Muggles has this done by the old Yur the Muggle, for sake of comedy in chapter six.

     Live Action TV 
  • Sesame Street has used the vaudeville routine listed below with Bert and Ernie.
  • The Cone of Silence on Get Smart is a classic example. It's hard to predict exactly how the Cone of Silence will fail at any given moment, but you can practically guarantee it will involve this trope.
    • Max is meeting his contact in a record store, so he plays a record up high in case they're being bugged. They end up shouting so loudly everyone in the store can hear what they're saying.
    • In the tv movie Get Smart, Again! the Cone of Silence has finally been ditched and replaced with Hover Cover, which involves standing on a rooftop between three hovering helicopters (causing the participants to get blown off their feet) and the Hall of Hush which only leads to a Wall of Blather. In the end the Chief tosses the CONTROL regulations in his waste bin and insists Max just talk to him normally.
  • Crank Yankers does this one. Elmer (old man character) tries to make an appointment to get hearing aids. Over the phone. You can see how this could go wrong, can't you?
  • Munster, Go Home! has this exchange between Herman and Lily at the race:
    Lily: They're trying to get rid of you!
    Herman: What?
    Lily: I said, they're trying to get rid of you!
    Herman: I love you, too!
  • In The Adventure Game, one of the Argonds was very hard of hearing, and the contestants' first reaction was to suggest that he use his ear trumpet. This turned out to be useless, and it was only when he was wearing his glasses that he could hear well.
  • Parodied in one episode of Radio Active: George is trying to tell Kevin something, but Kevin is listening to loud music on his headphones. George waves his hands wildly and mouths something; Kevin takes off his headphones and says, "Sorry, music, I couldn't hear you?", and George replies, "Oh, I know, that's why I didn't say anything.", before commencing with what he actually wanted to tell Kevin.
  • Leverage: Nate calls Sophie asking her to come back to the team, but she's on a plane that's taking off and can't hear him.
  • The Monkees episode "The Wild Monkees":
    Mickey: Gentlemen, the meeting will come to order!
    Mike: Mick, will you shut off your engine? We can't hear a word you're saying.
    Mickey: What, Mike?
    Mike: Mick, I said would you shut off your engine? We can't hear you!
    Mickey: I can't hear you. My engine's running!
  • Dads Army. Captain Mainwaring and his men are on parade wearing gas masks. After muttering incoherently for some time, Mainwaring eventually removes his mask.
    Mainwaring: And that concludes my lecture on gas warfare. Are there any questions?
    Jones says something incomprehensible from under his gasmask.
    Mainwaring: What was that? I can't hear a word you're saying.
    Sgt Wilson leans close to Jones. Jones mutters again.
    Wilson: He said he couldn't hear a word you were saying, sir.
  • An old sketch show had "the world's oldest joke" delivered by two guys dressed as cavemen. They speak only in nonsense "oooga booga!" language but it is translated as this:
    First Caveman: I have no ears!
    Second Caveman: How can you hear then?
    First Caveman, looks at a small sundial attached to his wrist: Half past two.
  • A loud conversation at the start of an episode of The Big Bang Theory:
    Sheldon: Leonard, are you in the shower?
    Leonard: I can't hear you! I'm in the shower!
    Sheldon: I asked if you were in the shower, but that's moot now.
    Leonard: What?
    Sheldon: (exasperated) Moot! Rendered unimportant by recent events!
    Leonard: I can't hear you, I'm in the shower!
    Sheldon: Never mind, let's skip the chit-chat.
  • In an episode of The IT Crowd, Roy is stealing from the vending machine via hacking when his boss jumps in, yells his name, then explains that he's yelling because he's wearing earplugs. Roy gets Genre Savvy enough to realize that anything he says will be misheard, and says "I'm stealing food from this machine!" His boss smiles and walks away.
  • A conversation in a loud danceclub in How I Met Your Mother:
    Ted: So how do you know Robin?
    Kelly: Saggitarius!
    Ted: Is that near Westchester?
    Kelly: I would love one!
    • Later, another common variant: "You have no idea what I'm saying, do you? I'm from outer space! I got thrown out of Sea World for humping a dolphin!" (Loud music cuts out) "I'm wetting my pants!"
  • From The Vicar of Dibley episode "Autumn", the parish council sits down for its meeting.
    David: We may experience some interruptions because— (jackhammer goes off outside and drowns him out)
    Frank: I'm sorry, what was that last part? I couldn't hear you over the jackhammer.
    David: That's what I said: we may be interrupted because— (jackhammer)

     Newspaper Comics 
  • In a Baby Blues strip, Darryl and Wanda are hosting a party, complete with rock music.
    Wanda: So, how do you think it's going?
    Darryl: WHAT?
    Wanda: I said, "How do you think it's going?"
    Darryl: WHAT??
    Wanda: HOW-DO-YOU-THINK-THE-PARTY-IS-GOING?
    Darryl: I COULDN'T AGREE MORE! SO, HOW DO YOU THINK THE PARTY IS GOING?

     Theater 
  • This is the basis of the old vaudeville joke:
    Mr. Interlocutor: Pardon me, you have a banana in your ear.
    Mr. Bones: Pardon me?
    Mr. Interlocutor: You have a banana in your ear!
    Mr. Bones: Pardon me?
    Mr. Interlocutor: YOU HAVE A BANANA IN YOUR EAR!
    Mr. Bones: I'm sorry; I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.
  • Starlight Express has a double musical version in "One Rock & Roll Too Many."

     Video Games 
  • Whenever you visit Jezebel at her night club in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, she'll say it's too loud and ask you to her office.
    • That's a bit of Genre Savvy; it's not too loud for her to serve drinks or make small talk with customers, but she'll invite you somewhere private to discuss 'business' she doesn't want exposed to a Seven Minute Lull.
  • In World in Conflict: Soviet Assault, Major Lebedjev secretly switches radio channels, when he orders general retreat, so that the Knight Templar Malashenko, who has moved too far ahead, doesn't come after the "traitors".
  • The Paragon choice in the final dialogue with the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2 has Shepard quipping "Sorry, I can't hear you. I'm getting a lot of bullshit on this line." in his face.
  • One of Mad King Thorn's jokes from Guild Wars Halloween events follows the Vaudeville "Banana In My Ear" joke, only with a pumpkin on his head.
  • Mad Marty, the old laundryman from Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. Eventually, when the exasperated protagonist yells at him, he says: "You don't have to shout. I'm not deaf."
  • When Rinnosuke attempts to talk to Marisa about her estranged father in a chapter of Curiosities and Lotus Asia, she invokes the trope. It's unclear whether she's ignoring his request to talk about Mr. Kirisame or genuinely doesn't hear him, since Kourindou is at the time surrounded by a multitude of very loud cicadas.

     Web Comics 
  • This The Non-Adventures of Wonderella strip plays with the "banana in your ear" version.
  • The "banana" gag gets deconstructed in this Arthur, King of Time and Space strip.
  • From Peachi's Metal Gear Solid comic, this happens when Liquid is in a helicopter:
    Snake: Who are you? And why do you sound like Master Miller with an awful British accent?
    Liquid: WHAT?
    Snake: I SAID-
    Liquid: WHAT? I'M SORRY, I CAN'T HEAR YOU, THERE'S A HELICOPTER HERE!
  • Questionable Content 2114: The Artificial Intelligence running the space station is annoyed at the government presence requiring a security check after the AI has already cleared Hannelore, Marten, and Marigold.
    Lieutenant Potter: [furiously] God Damn it, Station!
    Station: I'm sorry. I can't hear you. Lots of solar interference all of a sudden.
  • Tails Gets Trolled: A running gag is that Rob "The Guy With No Ears" is told massive amounts of expository dump but can't hear because...he has no ears.

     Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Season 2: "Return to Omashu" has this exchange:
    Aang: Just like old times, eh, Bumi?
    Bumi: Aang! I need to talk to you!
    Aang: It's good to see you too!
    • Season 3: Katara attempts to get Aang to talk about taking on the Fire Lord while the latter is on his glider.
    Aang: What? I...can't...hear...you! The wind is too loud in my ears! Check out this loop!
  • Family Guy did a pep rally at a school for the deaf which became this very fast.
  • Spongebob Squarepants episode "The Idiot Box" plays with the trope.
    Spongebob: We want to keep our voices down so we don't cause an avalanche.
    Patrick: What?
    Spongebob: We should keep our voices down so we don't cause an avalanche!
    Patrick: What should we keep down?
    Spongebob: [shouting] OUR VOICES!
    [avalanche sounds plus Spongebob and Patrick screaming in terror emit from their cardboard box]
    • In another episode, Squidward is repeatedly insulted by the voiceover narrator when making the Krusty Krab employee orientation video, and asks whether he's being paid extra for the scenes. Mr. Krabs responds with the trope name.
  • Back at the Barnyard:
    Pig: These earplugs are great!
    Otis: What?
    Pig: These earplugs are GREAT!
    Otis: No, I won't marry your grandmother!
    Abby: What?
    Otis: I said I won't marry Pig's grandmother!
    Abby: Thanks, I used a new shampoo!
    Peck: I also enjoy monkeys!
  • There's a scene in an episode of Invader Zim where Dib and Zim are yelling at each other across a street, but the animators didn't put in any traffic, so it really comes off more as Zim being hard of hearing. So...um...Played With, I guess. Yeah.
  • Comes up twice in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Applebuck Season." Due to overworking, Applejack bonks her head on a tree branch, leaving her ears ringing, so when Twilight Sparkle comes over talk to her, it takes a few tries before she actually hears what the other pony says:
    Twilight Sparkle: Applejack, can we talk?
    Applejack: Can bees squawk? I don't think so.
    Twilight Sparkle: No, "can we talk."
    Applejack: Twenty stalks? Bean or celery?
    Twilight Sparkle: NO! I need to talk to you!
    Applejack: You need to walk to the zoo? Well, who's stopping you?
    Twilight Sparkle: *louder* I need to talk to you!
    Applejack: Oh. Well, why didn't you say so? Whatchoo wanna talk about?
    • A few scenes later, she and Pinkie Pie attempt to bake some muffins, but her sleep-deprivation muddles what Pinkie says in a similar fashion, and what they end up with gives half the town food poisoning.
  • In an episode of Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, Angelina's neighbor comes over to complain to her father that she can't sleep because the music that's being played for a party is too loud. Her father replies that he can't hear her - the music is too loud.
  • In an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot ("Speak No Evil"), Jenny loses her English language software disc and defaults to Japanese. She tries talking/playing charades with Dr. Wakeman to explain the problem.
    Dr. Wakeman: How am I supposed to understand you if you won't speak a word of English?
  • From the Hey Arnold! episode "The Cool Jerk", Arnold can't hear local greaser Frankie G. over the sound of Frankie's motorcycle.
    Frankie: I said I like you, kid! You got potential!
    Arnold: You want my pencil?!
  • This is done in "Today's the Day!" on Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs when a jackhammer disturbs Harry's violin practice and Taury asks him how he's going to practice with all the noise.

I Can ExplainComedy TropesIdentical Panel Gag

alternative title(s): Banana In My Ear
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