Hearing loss is referred to as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for attaining 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
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and compelling others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, strive for complete 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 converse with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partially 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 great deal.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
Once you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be less likely to become frustrated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some tips 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 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 yell.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will respect 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 providing 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 achieve this by reducing distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, go with a calm, 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 TV or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to speak to the host ahead of time about special arrangements.
Planning ahead is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same applies to work; schedule some time with your manager to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to achieve success. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Seek professional help
Once hearing loss begins 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 filter background noise and improve speech recognition, and they may be precisely what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.