Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or observe your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing people can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regrettably, individuals with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for building empathy and for engaging in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, shoot for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best communicate with you. For example, 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 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 aggravated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, offer your communication companions some tips for better communication, such as:
- Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t shout across the room or from another room.
- Face-to-face communication is critical; visual signs and lip reading help me understand speech without straining.
- Get my attention before communicating with me.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will respect the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication obstacles after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You want to give yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by excluding distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, choose a quiet, serene restaurant and choose a table away from the center of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound emanating from a television 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 bet. Contacting the host prior to the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same tips can be applied to work; set aside some time with your supervisor to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to achieve success. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Seek professional help
As soon as hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to search for professional help. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech, and they may be precisely what you need to take pleasure in an active social life once again.