Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your difficulty and stress. The only thing people can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why disclosing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for earning empathy and for engaging in effective conversation.
Here are a few tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling others about your hearing loss might be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and forcing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can result in 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 talk louder.” Rather, summarize your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak with you. As an 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 lot.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
After you divulge your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become aggravated and more apt to make an effort 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 shout across the room or from another room.
- Face to face communication is critical; visual cues 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 shout.
Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication issues after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, 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 cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, pick out 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 afraid to speak to the host beforehand about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best bet. Approaching the host before the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice pertains to work; reserve some time with your supervisor to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to realize success. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Seek professional help
When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to search for professional assistance. 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 exactly what you need to take pleasure in an active social life once again.