Hearing loss is referred to as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or observe your hearing loss, and no one can feel your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for building empathy and for participating in productive conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to disclose your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling others about your hearing loss may be embarrassing or distressing, 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 disclosing your hearing loss, shoot for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Rather, describe your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best communicate with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear because of an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help a great deal.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
Once you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become frustrated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, offer your communication partners some suggestions for better communication, such as:
- Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t scream 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 co-workers will appreciate the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You’ll want to give yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by removing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, pick a quiet, serene restaurant and select a booth away from the center of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a TV or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to speak to the host beforehand about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best option. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same applies to work; schedule some time with your supervisor to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to succeed. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Seek out professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to seek professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.