Hearing loss is regarded 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 someone can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why disclosing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for gaining empathy and for participating in productive conversation.
Here are some 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 uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for example, can make for 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.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best speak 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 out a great deal.”
Provide others with communication tips
Once you divulge your hearing loss, others will be much less likely to become frustrated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication partners some suggestions for more effective 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 speaking 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 guidance, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your surroundings. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by cutting out disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, go with a quiet, tranquil restaurant and select a booth away from the middle 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 fearful to talk to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Approaching the host prior to the event will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; schedule some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to achieve success. 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 time to seek 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 just what you need to take pleasure in an active social life once again.