Follow TV Tropes


I Can't Hear You

Go To
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 for some reason by either a lot of ambient noise, hearing problems, an unusual obstruction in the ear of one of the conversants, or a terrible phone connection.

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...
  • or is deliberately making noise to block the conversation.

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." Also not to be confused for when someone shouts this as a means of trying to draw more energy from a cheering crowd, like at a concert or sporting event.

Sub-Trope of Impeded Communication and Opposite Trope to Acoustic License. Related to Fake Static for transmitted conversations, Ear Trumpet for a specific gag regarding the hard of hearing, and Mondegreen Gag for when a character mishears what another character says. Often sets up a Sustained Misunderstanding or Funny Phone Misunderstanding. One of the main components of Ignoring by Singing.


    open/close all folders 

  • A commercial for Amazon has a bunch of people saying "That's a low price." One of these is a woman and a male friend, wearing masks and walking a dog. She makes the comment regarding a product displayed on her smartphone and he asks "Dog lice?," then points to the phone and says "That's a low price."
  • Back in The '70s there was a commercial for dishwashers set in a suburban kitchen that invoked this trope, with two housewife types standing on either side of the device in question as it made a hellacious din.
    Woman #1: [shouting] Your dishwasher makes a lot of noise!
    Woman #2: [shouting louder] I can't hear you! My dishwasher makes a lot of noise!

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • 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??
  • This Dogs of C-Kennel strip.
  • In one FoxTrot strip, Paige and her date are at the prom when he says, "The music's kinda loud!" An extended Who's on First?-style exchange follows, with each one mishearing the other as they try to confirm what they said ("Godzilla ate a crowd?" "Why would desert fields be plowed?"), ending with Paige plugging her fingers in her ears and saying, "Very loud."

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin and Hobbes do this in Calvin & 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 the Discworld, Assassin schoolteachers miss Alice Band and Johanna Smith-Rhodes are wrongsided, on a training exercise they thought would be straightforward, by some really good students who ace a test intended to be unwinnable (by the students), who manage to deliver a super-sized thunderflash into a confined space underneath their instructors' feet. Alice and Johanna eventually get their hearing back, but for a couple of hours they have to communicate in Assassin sign language.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • In the Zor's Pizza Chronicles, a comedy fanfic based on Final Fantasy VII, the whole thing with Sephiroth summoning Meteor was down to a bad phone connection and an employee who doesn't speak English well. He was actually trying to call Zor's Pizza to order a "Meaty-Zor," but they misheard him and summoned Meteor instead.
    Sephiroth: Hey, this is Sephiroth. I called and asked for a Meaty-Zor, and...
    Zor's Employee: O-kaiy, sow yoo want a Meteor?
    Sephiroth: NO!!! Get me someone who speaks English!

    Film — Animation 
  • 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!
  • Funshine Bear sings about the unusual obstruction variant in the "Make 'Em Laugh" song in Care Bears: Journey to Joke-A-Lot.
    Funshine: A Pie in the Face / A banana in your ear...
  • 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 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]
    Po: ...serving of justice! Your reign of terror comes to an end!
    Shen: [softer] What?
  • The LEGO Ninjago Movie: When Lloyd and Lord Garmadon are captured by Lord Garmadon's former generals, Lord Garmadon demands that they release them, to which one named Bob says "I can't hear you!". When Garmadon repeats what he said, another one says that Bob lost his hearing after Garmadon shot him out of his volcano.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rollercoaster of Friendship: Fluttershy and Rainbow are standing next to a rollercoaster, and can't hear each other because of the patrons screaming.
    Rainbow Dash: [yelling] Can you hear me over all the screaming?!
    Fluttershy: [yelling] I can't hear you over all the screaming!
  • In the Australian Star Trek: The Next Generation parody Sev Trek: Pus in Boots, this happens when the crew turn on the Red Alert.
  • 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?"

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Abbott and Costello in Hollywood: In one sequence, Abercrombie offers Buzz some cotton earplugs so that he won't hear a sleep-inducing record that Abercrombie's using to cure his insomnia. Unfortunately, whoever's wearing them can't hear a thing, so Buzz can't hear Abercrombie talking to him once he puts them in, or hear the point where he's supposed to turn the record off.
  • Alien. Parker feigns a defective steam pipe so he can pretend not to hear Ripley's orders. After she leaves in exasperation he realises the pipe really is defective.
  • Ant-Man has Luis and his buddies running from the cops after the heist. As they hop into their van with Paxton yelling at them to stop, Luis shouts back "It's too loud! There's a tank! Can't hear you!"
  • Too-loud disco music in Boogie Nights:
    "Doesn't it make you nervous when you're dealing with all those evil forces?"
    "No, the evil forces."
    "Evil?! Nah, man. It's not evil. It's an illusion!"
    "Yeah! It's confusin'!"
  • BoyTown: When the band members all lose their voices to an infection, their manager tells them their final concert will go ahead with them lip-syncing, unless he hears any objections. The boys protest vehemently but hoarsely, and their manager says he can't hear a thing.
  • Francis Bigger in Carry On Doctor from the Carry On series decides to marry his deaf lecture assistant in hospital. Unfortunately, he accidentally hires a deaf priest, and this trope is in full swing.
    Francis: [prompting his assistant] "I do".
    Chloe the Assistant: What?
    Francis: [a little louder] "I ... DO"!
    Chloe: "I do" what?
    Francis: No no! He's done the, "Do you take thee etc etc"!
    Chloe: Oh! I do!
    Francis: A little louder, please.
    Chloe: [louder] I do!
    Francis: SHE DOES!!
  • D.E.B.S.. 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?
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Indy is fighting one of the Borthers of the Cruciform Sword on a motorboat in Venice. He sees Dr. Schneider heading towards two large ships and tries to tell her to go around, but the engine is too loud.
    Indy: Are you crazy? Don't go between them!
    Dr. Schneider: Go between them?! Are you crazy?! (she does so anyway)
  • The Last Jedi: Poe does this to Hux to buy some time for his ship to get into position.
    Poe: This is Commander Poe Dameron of the Republic fleet, I have an urgent communique for General Hugs.
    Hux: This is General Hux of the First Order. The Republic is no more. Your fleet are Rebel scum and war criminals. Tell your precious princess there will be no terms, there will be no surrender—
    Poe: Hi, I'm holding for General Hugs.
    Hux: [pause] This is Hux. You and your friends are doomed. We will wipe your filth from the galaxy.
    Poe: Okay. I'll hold.
    Hux: Hello?
    Poe: Hello? Yup. I'm still here.
    Hux: [to an officer] Can he hear me?
    Poe: Hugs?
    Comm Officer: He can.
    Poe: With an 'H'? Skinny guy. Kinda pasty.
    Hux: I can hear you. Can you hear me?
    Poe: Look, I can't hold forever. If you reach him, tell him Leia has an urgent message for him...
    Comm Officer: I believe he's tooling with you, sir.
    Poe: ...about his mother.
    Hux: [beat] OPEN FIRE!
  • 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 Scary Movie 3, Cindy gets a call from the girl from the scary videotape in The Ring after watching the video, but at first can't understand that she's being told "seven days" (meaning that the girl is going to come and kill her in seven days) due to bad connection.
    Tabitha: (indistinct) Seven days.
    Cindy: What? Willie Mays?
    Tabitha: (still indistinct) Seven days.
    Cindy: Who's gay? Hello?
  • SHAZAM! (2019): Just before the final confrontation, Sivana delivers a supervillain rant to the hero... who is hovering some distance away above a busy city street, and notably does not have Super-Senses:
    Sivana: Enough games, boy! You think a pack of children can…
    (Cut to Shazam's perspective; Sivana's voice is barely audible.)
    Shazam: Wait, WHAT?!
    Sivana: … you will beg for mercy as I feast on your heart. Slowly…
    Shazam: Are you making some, like, big, evil-guy speech right now or somethin'? You're like a mile away from me right now, there's cars and trucks…
    Sivana: - I will have the world eating out of the palm of my han-
    Shazam: All I see is mouth-movin', I don't hear any-
    Sivana: - only I have the power to unleash-
    Shazam: ... Ah, whatever, screw it!

  • A man is walking down the street with bananas in his ears.
    A woman walking the other way sees this, waves at the man, and says, "Excuse me, but you have bananas in your ears."
    The man says, "What?"
    The woman raises her voice and says, "I said you have bananas in your ears!"
    The man again says, "What?"
    The woman screams at the top of her lungs, "I said you have bananas in your ears!"
    The man shakes his head and says, "I'm sorry, I can't hear you! I have bananas in my ears!"
  • A man sees his friend walking down the street carrying a monstrously huge bug on his back and an ornate bottle in his hand.
    Where the hell did you get that, Bob?
    Found a bottle with a wish-granting genie. Gonna see if the zoo wants to buy this off me.
    Wish-granting genie? Can I try?
    OK, genie, I wish for a million bucks!
    -The street fills with quacking as innumerable ducks appear.-
    What the hell!? I asked for a million bucks, not a million ducks!
    You really think I asked him for a giant tick?note 

  • In The Bagthorpe Saga, Grandpa Alfred Bagthorpe is 85 years old and has lost some of his hearing, but not as much as everyone else thinks; he mostly uses his hearing loss as a convenient excuse to tune out the boasting and arguments that dominate family conversations. His son-in-law, Russell, describes him as "S.D." - not, as his nephew Jack guesses, "Stone Deaf", but "Selectively Deaf".
  • This is used to great comic effect by Bartimaeus towards the end of The Ring of Solomon, a prequel book in the Bartimaeus series. After winning against Ammet, he brings the ring back to Jerusalem and to Khaba the Cruel, at first faithfully imitating Ammet, who always took the form of a dark shadow imitation of Khaba's form. However, as time passes, he slowly allows the imitation to grow a long nose, warts and two jug-ears. Then, when's supposedly giving Khaba the ring, he instead makes it so that Khaba just misses, telling him "That was a big jump. If only you were a little taller." When the magician insists "Give it to me!" he claps his hand against one of the jug-ears, telling him that he's a bit deaf. When Khaba repeats "Give it to me!" he replies that "Nothing would give me greater pleasure," then punches him square on the chin, knocking him out and sending him sprawling.
  • The Saucepan Man, a character from early Enid Blyton books - debuting in Book of Brownies before becoming a recurring character in The Faraway Tree - is known for his terrible hearing, owing to the amount of pots and pans he frequently hangs all over himself. His inability to interpret what other characters are saying to him is a recurring Running Gag.
    Skip: Are you the Saucepan Man?
    Saucepan Man: No, I don't have a sausage pan.
    Hop: Where are you going?
    Saucepan Man: No, don't be silly, it isn't snowing.
    Jump: [Suddenly Shouting] CAN WE GO HOME WITH YOU?
    Saucepan Man:, my boots aren't new, but what's that to do with you?
  • The Dresden Files: Harry's elderly landlady is hard of hearing so they have a conversation of the second type in Changes.
  • In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Bean hadn't washed in such a long time that his ears start getting clogged with disgusting items like old chewing gum and dead flies. So when Bunce sarcastically asks if Bean has another idea to catch the titular fox, Bean says he can't hear him. Thus, Bunce has to shout into his ear.
  • The Legend of Rah and the Muggles has this done by the old Yur the Muggle, for sake of comedy in chapter six.
  • In the picture book Listen, Buddy, the whole life of the title character, Buddy the rabbit, is essentially this. His parents send him to get a basket of squash, he comes back with a basket of wash (laundry). They tell him to buy fifteen tomatoes, he comes back with 50 potatoes. His father tells him to bring him a pen, he comes back with a hen. Then, one day, his not listening properly leads him to the home of the ill-tempered Scruffy Varmint. Said varmint tries to enlist his help in making soup, but he annoys the varmint so much with his shenanigans until he declares that he's having bunnyrabbit soup. Buddy listens to this and hops away faster than he's ever hopped in his life and when his parents ask him for something, he finally listens.
  • In the story "April Showers" from the picture book Max and Maggie in Spring, Maggie pays a visit to Max's house and knocks on the door. She gets no answer but hears singing and water running. She figures to herself that her friend is in the shower and she'll let herself in. She does so and calls to him, asking if he's in the shower. "What?" he asks and she shouts "Are you in the shower?" in a louder voice. He replies that he can't hear her, that he's in the shower.
  • In Mickey's Tattered Tale, Mickey tries to strike up a conversation with an elderly lady sitting next to him on the bus he's taking to his date with Minnie Mouse at the ballroom. The lady mistakes him for trying to ask her on a date and chases after him with her purse.
    Mickey: And then the bees chased me, and wouldn't you know it, I messed up my brand-new tuxedo. You see, I have a big date tonight.
    Elderly Lady: You want me to go on a date tonight? I should say not!
    Mickey: No ma'am, my date's with Minnie Mouse.
    Elderly Lady: Come to my house? Young man, I'm warning you!
    Mickey: But ma'am, you misunderstood!
    Elderly Lady: A kiss for my own good? That does it!
    Mickey: But ma'am, please!
  • 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 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.
  • When Rinnosuke attempts to talk to Marisa about her estranged father in a chapter of Touhou Kourindou ~ Curiosities of Lotus Asia, she invokes the trope. It's unclear whether she's merely ignoring his request to talk about Mr. Kirisame or using the multitude of very loud cicadas outside to dodge the subject.
  • In one Winnie the Pooh story, Rabbit calls a meeting about making Tigger stop bouncing. Pooh, half-asleep and uninterested in proceedings, tells Rabbit that he couldn't hear him through the fluff in his ear. When Rabbit asks when the fluff started interfering, Pooh claims he doesn't know because he couldn't hear.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Batman (1966) had the Dynamic Duo put into a Death Trap where they were locked in a box while water dripped onto a drum, which was amplified by 10,000 and the noise pumped into the box they were in. Once they managed to escape:
    Robin: I think I'm going to be hard of hearing for a while.
    Batman: What?
    Robin: I think I'm going to be hard of hearing for a while.
    Batman: I can't hear you. I think I'm going to be hard of hearing for a while.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Dad's 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.
  • In an episode of Friends:
    Joey: [finishing playing his new drum set incredibly loudly] Hey, Rachel! Guess what Phoebe just got me!
    Rachel: ... Drums?
    Joey: No! Drums!
  • 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.
  • The Henry Danger crossover with The Thundermans "Danger and Thunder" had Kid Danger blatantly lie when he claimed he couldn't hear Phoebe deduce Captain Man was on a train in order not to look stupid about not figuring it out. They were on a helicopter, but no one believed Henry couldn't hear her.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • A conversation in a loud dance club:
      Ted: So how do you know Robin?
      Kelly: Sagittarius!
      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!"
  • 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 smart 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.
  • Kaamelott: One episode sees Inept Mage Merlin managing to blow up his workbench in the process of boiling water.
    Arthur: You'd better watch yourself, because if you keep sytematically screwing up every single thing you do, you're going to become a legend!
    Merlin: WHAT!?!
    -Arthur looks away in disgust-
    Merlin: (flattered): Ah...
  • Legion: Because "Chapter 22" takes place in the 1950s, the long-distance phone call from Morocco has a weak connection, so Gabrielle and Charles Xavier have a lot of trouble understanding what the other is saying through all the loud static and distortion. She's unable to hear her husband's warning about Amahl Farouk (the latter is literally haunting her house as a Fog of Doom, so she's unaware that her infant son David is in danger), and she also misses Charles' reassurance that he's on on his way home. Because Gabrielle's psyche is falling apart at the seams, it's essential for her to know that Charles (who's her Living Emotional Crutch) will return soon, so without that info, her despair grows ever closer to the breaking point.
    Gabrielle: Hello?
    Charles: Love? It's me. Are you there?
    Gabrielle: I'm here.
    Charles: I-I found him. His name is Amahl Farouk. He's a telepath. He's-he's nothing like me. I should never have come.
    Gabrielle: Where are you?
    Charles: He has no morals. He's a monster.
    Gabrielle: Who?
    Charles: Some sort of devil. He's a—
    Gabrielle: I can't hear you.
    Charles: Hello? Gabrielle?
    Gabrielle: Can you hear me?
    Charles: Can you...? I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm-I'm coming home now.
    Gabrielle: Charles, come home. You hear me? Come home.
    (Gabrielle erupts into Broken Tears after Charles hangs up the receiver)
  • Leverage: Nate calls Sophie asking her to come back to the team, but she's on a helicopter that's taking off and can't hear him.
  • In "Pink Tops" from The Mentalist Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon are working the case of an undercover female detective who was killed just outside of a popular local dance club known for its continuous loud music. Lisbon tries to call Jane while he is inside the club, only for him to ask what she's saying a couple of times and then hang up. She finally arrives and meets him at the club, where he is talking with the proprietor, Vince Candide, whom he says is "a womanizing buffoon, but I think you'll be amused by his presumption."
    Lisbon: What?
    Candide: Huh?
    Jane: He... this is, he...
    Lisbon: (holding up a picture on her phone) Have you seen this woman? (he looks and shakes his head) What about Omar Vega?
    Candide: Who?
    Lisbon and Jane: Omar Vega!
    Candide: Sorry. I gotta go run the place.
    Jane: He can't hear! Thanks, Vince!
  • Monk: In one episode, Natalie and Disher have found a body and Monk, who's on jury duty, is trying to guide them by shouting down from the courthouse. While trying to find out who she is, Natalie repeatedly shouts to Monk "No I.D.", which he hears as "No idea."
  • The Monkees episode "The Wild Monkees":
    Micky: Gentlemen, the meeting will come to order!
    Mike: Mick, will you shut off your engine? We can't hear a word you're saying.
    Micky: What, Mike?
    Mike: Mick, I said would you shut off your engine? We can't hear you!
    Micky: I can't hear you. My engine's running!
  • Odd Squad:
    • In "The Trouble With Centigurps", Oscar attempts to tell Otto about the boxes he's gathered, which will be used to count the Centigurps. However, Otto is trapped in the lab's quarantine room with a hundred loud chirping Centigurps, meaning that he can't hear his co-worker.
    Otto: [muffled] I can't hear what you're saying! But okay!!
    • In "Extreme Cakeover", when Oprah is turned into a cake, Olympia begins shouting into what she believes is her boss's ear. Otis responds by saying that Oprah can't hear her, as she's a cake. Olympia retorts:
    Olympia: How do you know? [points to the top layer of the cake] Maybe those little circle parts are her ears. [to Oprah] Sorry I just called your ears "little circle parts"!
    • At the beginning of "The O Team", Olympia and Otis are called by Oprah into her office. Oprah begins to shout at them that they solved their 49th case, then she takes out earplugs that she had in her ears and asks them to repeat what she told them.
    • In "Xs and Os", Oprah comes up to Oona and tells her that she canceled her juice box order due to Cutting Corners, wanting to see if she has a gadget that makes juice. Oona, however, is unable to hear her due to wearing headphones with blaring rock music and being too focused on the light that her station bike is powering. Even when Oprah shouts her name at full volume, Oona doesn't so much as look up.
    • In "Into the Odd Woods", Orla calls Opal to tell her that Omar is about to run away to the circus. During the conversation, Orla's voice becomes muffled and Opal is unable to understand her (although to the audience, it can be heard as "Opal, you better get over here right now!"). It's then shown that Orla got another pie to the face courtesy of Omar, and explains that she got whipped cream in her mouth.
    • In "Mission O Possible", the Mobile Unit and the Little O go to Jimmy Jam's apartment to steal his signal jammer, only to find that he can't hear them due to the jammer emitting a loud whirring noise and him having headphones on. This proves to be to their benefit, and they simply drag the jammer out of the apartment without him being the wiser.
  • In "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" from The Orville, the music is very loud during the party that Past Kelly holds. Ed and John shout about how they can't hear each other, and everyone they talk to thinks they're asking where the bathroom is.
  • On a recent telecast of The Price Is Right, Drew Carey and a contestant were wearing outrageous Hawaiian shirts, prompting Drew to crack to announcer George Gray "We can't hear you. Our shirts are too loud!"
  • 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.
  • In "Lone Wolf" from Resident Alien, in an attempt to prevent their conversation from being overheard by government snoops or drones, Deputy Liv takes Sheriff Mike to a secluded area in the 59 where loud music is playing. Her attempts, however, to tell him anything, just result in this and later a Seven Minute Lull.
    Liv: Listen, that duffel bag belongs to the Alien Tracker's son. I found the information in a diary.
    Mike: Who— who has diarrhea?!
  • This Saturday Night Live sketch plays with the 'mob boss is offended by what he hears and sarcastically pretends he didn't hear' variant. A punk demands a promotion, to which the boss responds with several variants of "What did you just say to me?" until the punk gets the idea and leaves. Then the boss meets with a second underling who wants to thank him, and the boss responds the same way, indicating that he wasn't being sarcastic, he genuinely couldn't hear.
  • "Banana in the ear" is a classic Sesame Street routine by Ernie and Bert that first appeared in the show's second season. In their apartment, Bert notices Ernie holding a banana in his ear. Bert tries to talk to Ernie, but he replies, "I can't hear you! I have a banana in my ear!"
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Watergate", Daniel and Carter accompany Markoff in the submarine through the submerged stargate, resulting in this:
    Markoff: It is quite beautiful.
    Daniel: What?
    Markoff: The rapid pressurization might cause your ears to block. [to Carter] As you might notice, there is no plant or animal life.
    Daniel: There doesn't appear to be any plant or animal life.
  • In "All Good Things", the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, after Beverly Crusher/Picard tells the elderly Picard that she'll give him six more hours and tells him that if it were anyone else, they wouldn't even be there, an elderly Q appears and pulls this on Picard.
    Q: (holding ear trumpet) Eh? What was that she said, sonny? I couldn't quite hear her.
    Picard: Q? What is going on here? Where is the anomaly?
    Q: Where's your mommy? Well, I don't know.
  • 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)
  • 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.

  • In "Star Roars," the MAD parody of A New Hope, Lube Skystalker (Luke Skywalker) tells Oldie Von Moldie (Obi-Wan Kenobi) that "Princess Laidup is in the hands of that rat, Zader! We haven't a moment to lose!"
    Moldie: Eh? What's that? You say you want to go up to my flat later and sing the blues??

  • Played with on Mission to Zyxx where C-53 claims he can generate a zone of silence to allow the crew to have aside conversations in the presence of their adversaries. At various points the adversaries interrupt, apparently by having stepped forward into the zone.

    Puppet Shows 
  • This is a regular Running Gag on Bear in the Big Blue House with Lois, a blue-footed booby bird seen on the series who is chronically hard of hearing. (For added hilarity, Lois was Woodland Valley's telephone operator.) For example, from the "Good As New" song:
    Doc Hogg: Now, Lois, take a warm birdbath in the sink.
    Lois: I stink?
  • On an episode of Fraggle Rock, Red tries to put up a barrier to keep Mokey from getting too close to the Singing Cactus and causing them to sing their mind-control music. While trying to decide how far away to put the barrier, she gets too close herself, and they begin singing, hypnotizing her into joining in. Mokey finds her and, wearing radishes as earplugs, drags Red away.
    Red: Mokey, you can take your hands off my ears now!
    Mokey: WHAT? I can't hear you! I've got radishes in my ears!
    Red: So THAT'S why she wasn't enchanted by the Singing Cactus!
  • Statler and Waldorf have a few moments like this on The Muppet Show.
    Statler: Did you get your hearing aid fixed?
    Waldorf: No.
    Statler: Then how do you know what I'm saying?
    Waldorf: I don't.
  • An episode of Muppets Tonight had Randy and Andy Pig try to end noise pollution by sticking their fingers in their ears. The sketch ended with an inversion. Sam tells them "A tingulous trout for your spears" to get them to take their fingers out of their ears.

  • Starlight Express has a double musical version in "One Rock & Roll Too Many."
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Polly, the elderly hotel owner from Deadly Premonition, creates many examples of the third type. It doesn't help that she insists on sitting on the opposite end of a large, long table when eating with York.
    York: Polly, it might help you to hear better if you could sit a little closer.
    Polly: Oh my, Mr. Morgan. You're embarrassing me. So early in the day, too! I think I'm a little too old for you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In the Pokémon games (as of Generation 3), the ability Soundproof makes the Pokémon that has it immune to sound-based moves, such as Sing, Uproar, Screech, etc.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: When the player character reports to the nightclub owner Venus Dare after completing her first Sidequest, she shouts back that she can't hear them and leads them away from the dance floor and into her office. It might be a pretense, since she tries to hire them to assassinate an enemy while they're in private.
  • 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".

    Web Animation 
  • In Episode 17 of Dr. Havoc's Diary, everybody goes half-deaf after Brock fires his gun inside of the submarine, which had triggered a loud, high-pitched ringing.
    Brock: Ah, shit! Uh, my bad, my bad everyone! My silencer wasn't on! Sorry guys.
    Dr. Havoc: Aagh... God, I think my eardrums are bleeding.
    Brock: What?
    Dr. Havoc: Ugh, shut up! God, just shut up!
    Brock: That's right, everybody put your hands up!
    Henchman Kyle: What? What did he say?
    Henchman Steve: What did Kyle just say?
    Henchman Kyle: What did Steve just say?
    Henchman Steve: I can't hear anything!
    Henchman Kyle: What?
    Henchman Steve: Huh?
    Henchman Kyle: Who said that?
    Dr. Havoc: Stop. Yelling.
    Brock: WHAT?
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • Shay Van Buren is prone to of this due to the fact that she's deaf in her right ear after being hit there by a hacky sack in the Third Grade. To the point where it almost seems like "What?" is her catchphrase.
    • Poor Trisha can't even bend her arms (90s doll joke, don't ask.), so when her mom calls her, Trisha can barely hear her because the phone is so high above her head.

  • Homestuck has this example, thanks to Dave's "ironic" love of terrible gear, in this case a two-way radio shaped like a puppet's rear end:
    TEREZI: D4V3
    DAVE: what was that
    DAVE: im having trouble hearing you through the little foam ass
    DAVE: hold on lemme smoosh my ear up against it
  • 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—
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • The bots of the Jolly Roger Telephone Company will regularly say that they can't hear the telemarketer and they need them to repeat as a way of wasting a bit of time. However, there's one in particular that asks if the caller just said "English muffin," saying they could have sworn they heard them say that, then admitting that they just started a new diet with no carbs and they would kill for an English muffin.
  • This is a standard gambit of Kitboga, a scam-baiter, either to waste a bit of scammer time, or to play dumb when he pretends to redeem gift cards, etc.and the scammers shout for him not to do it.
  • In Lily Fever, Serang has an Imagine Spot where she's a senior. She talks to a young woman at the park, but gets offended by a misunderstanding and beats the girl up. It turns out she was faking being hard of hearing.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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'! The wind is too loud in my ears! Check out this loop!
  • In "Badou's Best Adventure" from Babar and the Adventures of Badou, Badou ventures into the lair of the Spider Queen to return her precious horn to her pile of treasure. He places it on top and she comes running up shouting about thieves. He explains that he's just returning her horn. She holds said horn up to her ear and he explains it again.
  • This is used in "The Slumber Party" in the PBS series of The Berenstain Bears when Too Tall plays a loud boombox at Lizzie's slumber party. The babysitter tells him to turn it down, but he tells her that he can't hear her because the music's too loud.
  • This is done on Blue's Clues on the episode "Nature!" between Steve and the voice of the kid used to represent the viewer when the viewer discovers a waterfall and tries to point it out to Steve, but he says that he can't hear because there's a loud waterfall. Also, it's a fairly common Running Gag on the series for either Steve or Joe to mishear when the voice says "A clue!" The gag continues in the spinoff/sequel Blue's Clues & You!.
  • In "Clifford's Field Trip" from Clifford's Puppy Days, the group encounters a group of noisy birds during a trip to a rainforest exhibit.
    Emily Elizabeth: These birds sure are loud.
    Shun: [holding his hand to his ear] Sorry. Can't hear ya'. These birds are too loud. [Clifford barks from inside Emily Elizabeth's backpack]
    Emily Elizabeth: Did you hear that? It sounded like a dog!
    Shun: A frog?!
  • Danger Mouse, while investigating a disturbance at Stonehenge, tries to rouse a suddenly inanimate Penfold. DM's evil alter ego appears and says "He can't hear standing still." From the episode "The Good, the Bad and the Motionless."
  • In Donkey Kong Country episode "Cranky's Tickle Tonic", Funky is flying Cranky to the White Mountains. However, the plane engine is so loud that Cranky's instructions can't be heard. Funky's solution is to turn the engine off, and the plane plummets.
  • In "The Inside Job" from Esme & Roy, Snugs is getting cold but really wants to keep playing outside. Esme and Roy bundle him up in a bunch of winter gear, so much that it completely covers his mouth. Esme asks what he thinks and he replies that "It's kind of hard to talk with all this stuff on." It comes out completely muffled, so Esme asks "What?" and he says again. She asks Roy if he caught any of that and Roy replies "He said..." and then imitates the muffled speech. Snugs then takes off the clothing and repeats it. "Hard to move too."
  • Family Guy did a pep rally at a school for the deaf which became this very fast.
  • In the U.S. Acres portion of one episode of Garfield and Friends, Roy puts on a CD of rooster crows so he doesn't have to do the crowing himself, and puts earmuffs on so he can sleep. The continued crowing prompts Orson to go check it out. After a bit of watching Wade go through a Mattress-Tag Gag, this trope plays out for Orson and Roy over both the earmuffs and the stereo.
  • This happens in "Ice Cream Team" from Handy Manny. Manny's tools are trying to pitch ice cream to people in a local park, to try to get it all sold before it melts do a malfunctioning freezer. Squeeze hits up a skateboarder resting on a bench who can't her because he's listening to music on headphones.
    Squeeze: You know, the yummy stuff you get in a cone!
    Skateboarder: No, I don't have a phone! But I think there might be a pay phone over there. (points and skates away)
  • 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.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: In "Closed Circuit TV,'' the bears get wise to the TV cameras Peevly planted throughout the zoo, including their cave, so they decide to troll Peevly. They move their mouths without saying anything to make Peevly think the sound on his monitor is malfunctioning.
  • On Henry Hugglemonster, this is a regular Running Gag with Captain Hollander, who operates the airship.
    Henry: [addressing the viewer] This really is the most roarsome day ever.
    Hollander: What's that? Pull the lever? Okay! [drops pizzas from his airship]
  • 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?!
  • In "Parade Day" from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Mouse tells Oliver that their new float is really noisy.
    Oliver: What?!
    Mouse: I said "Our new float is really noisy!"
    Oliver: Oh. Yeah.
  • 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. With, I guess. Yeah.
  • "I Want My Voice Back" from the animated series of Little Princess has the unusual obstruction variant with the royal chef, who had put stalks of broccoli in his ears so that he wouldn't have to listen to Little Princess's constant shouting.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "Devil Dog", Bugs mistakes Taz the Tasmanian Devil for a dog and wonders if he belongs to Granny. This exchange then occurs between the three:
    Bugs: We're sorry to bother you, but did you lose a pet?
    Granny: Lose a bet? Oh, I don't gamble. I mean, I'll buy a lottery ticket now and then.
    Bugs: No, no, not a bet, a pet. We found this dog.
    Granny: Oh, you found my clog! Oh, thank goodness! I've been looking everywhere for it!
    (Granny pulls up her skirt, revealing her to be wearing only one clog)
    Bugs: Oh, brother. Forget the clog. What she really needs is a hearing aid.
    Granny: Cheering maid? What's a cheering maid?
    Daffy: (as Sylvester and Tweety try to evade Taz) You know, a cheering maid. It's basically a cheerleader who cleans your house. Sometimes they'll get in pyramid formations. They wear cute little pleated skirts that can double as mops. Come on, lady! Cheering maids! They wax the floors with their ponytails, they chant the names of various cleaning products, they vacuum your floors while dating the captain of the football team! They do W-I-N-D-O-W-S! Windows! Wi-i-i-in-dows! They dry your laundry by waving it like a flag! You know, cute little girls with names like Cindy, Margie, Britney! There's always a Britney, with her toothy little smile and feather duster. What don't you understand? They're real energetic! They use pom-poms instead of sponges! Wait! Why are we still talking about cheering maids? Is this your dog or not?
    Granny: Do I know the fox trot? Oh, why yes, of course!
  • In "Home Safe Home" from Lou and Lou: Safety Patrol, Lou and Louise inspect the safety of their home's living room and tell their mother, who is vacuuming, that "Everything checks out in here." She can't hear them because of the vacuuming, so they shout it. She still can't hear them, so she turns off the vacuum. Lou shouts that everything checks out, and Louise asks him why he's shouting.
  • In "First Fish" from Molly of Denali, the message that "salmon are running down by the bridge" gets misheard as "ham and onions down by the ridge" due to being shouted at a distance from a canoe and then misheard again "Yams are drowning the fridge."
  • In "Rabbit's Sounds of Silence" from My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Rabbit needs total quiet while his cake his cooking or else it will collapse. Unfortunately, Beaver is hard at work nearby, resulting in it collapsing. He comes outside to tell him that he has to stop making all the noise.
    Beaver: Sorry, can't hear you, Rabbit. I'm making too much noise!
  • 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?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Comes up twice in the 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 Applejack's sleep-deprivation muddles what Pinkie says in a similar fashion, and what they end up with gives half the town food poisoning.
  • Special Agent Oso has a Running Gag of Whirlybird the helicopter comically mishearing Oso, causing him to drop him.
    Oso: Now we're really flying!
    Whirlybird: What's that?! You say you want to be really flying?! Okay! [drops Oso]
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The 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.
    • And of course, Once per Episode...
      Arrr ya ready kids?
      Aye-aye, captain!
      I can't heeeear you!
      Ooooooooh.... Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • 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!
  • In "It's OK To Talk With Your Hands" on ToddWorld, Todd and Pickle are in the lost sock room of the town sock wash looking for octopus socks for a scavenger hunt. It's very noisy and Pickle can't understand Todd, so Todd eventually gives up and says that he's just going to look for the octopus socks.
    Pickle: I can't hear you! I'm just going to look for the octopus socks!
  • Toot & Puddle:
    • In "Toot & Puddle's Camp Out," as the two title characters are searching for their perfect campout spot, a strong wind kicks up. Puddle tells Toot that "It's too windy here," but Toot replies that he can't hear him because it's too windy. The wind then catches his backpack and blows into a bush.
    • In "Free Falling Friends," when Toot is skydiving, he thinks he hears Puddle on the ground telling him to "send some cheese." When he finally lands, he asks him why he was saying that. It turns he was reminding him to "bend your knees," something that the skydiving instructor had taught.
  • On Wallykazam!, Wally and Gina do this in "The Switching Stone" when Bobgoblin is transformed into Biggoblin by the power of the switching stone and stomps around making a lot of noise.

    Real Life 
  • Misunderstandings by "smart" devices such as Alexa, Siri, etc., can easily create this effect.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Banana In My Ear


Send Some Cheese?

In "Free Falling Friends" from "Toot & Puddle," Toot is skydiving and as he's coming in for the landing, he hears his friend Puddle shouting what sounds like "Send some cheese!" though surely that can't be right. When he's back on the ground, it turns out that Puddle was actually trying to remind him to "Bend your knees!" as he was landing.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / ICantHearYou

Media sources: