Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, individuals with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for winning empathy and for participating in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to disclose your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll avert many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and forcing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can produce situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, shoot for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best talk with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear due to an infection I had several years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help out a lot.”
Provide others with communication tips
After you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become irritated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication partners some suggestions for better communication, such as:
- Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t yell across the room or from another room.
- Face to face communication is important; visual signs and lip reading help me with speech comprehension.
- Get my attention before communicating with me.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to yell.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You’ll want to present yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by removing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When eating out, pick a calm, serene restaurant and select a table away from the center of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a television or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be hesitant to talk to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Planning ahead is your best option. Contacting the host before the event will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same applies to work; schedule some time with your boss to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to achieve success. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to seek professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.