Hearing loss is commonly called the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or observe 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.
Regrettably, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why disclosing your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for attaining empathy and for engaging in productive 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 embarrassing or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can result in situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, strive for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” 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 a lot.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
After you divulge your hearing loss, other people will be less likely to become aggravated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some tips 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 cues and lip reading help me understand speech without straining.
- Get my attention before speaking with me.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You want to present yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by excluding distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, choose a calm, tranquil 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 television or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to speak to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Contacting the host before the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same pertains to work; set aside some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to achieve success. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to search for professional assistance. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to suppress background noise and improve speech, and they may be precisely what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.