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.
Unfortunately, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for gaining empathy and for participating in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing other people about your hearing loss might be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and compelling others to repeat themselves, for example, can result in situations that are a great deal 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, describe your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best communicate with you. For example, you might say something like, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear due to an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help out a lot.”
Provide others with communication tips
After you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become aggravated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, offer your communication companions some suggestions for more effective communication, such as:
- Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t yell 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 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 pointers, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication issues after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication tips, the final consideration is the control of your environment. You want to give yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When eating out, pick a calm, serene restaurant and select a table 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 hesitant to talk to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best bet. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; schedule some time with your boss to review the preparations that give you the best chance to be successful. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Seek professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins 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 suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.