Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or observe your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing people can feel is their OWN frustration when they have to repeat themselves.
Sadly, people with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is critical—both for building empathy and for engaging in productive conversation.
Here are a few 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 might be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and compelling others to repeat themselves, for example, can result in situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, strive for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Instead, describe your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best communicate with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partly 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 frustrated and more apt to make the effort to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, offer your communication partners some tips for better 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 important; visual cues 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 yell.
Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your surroundings. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, find a calm, tranquil restaurant and choose a booth away from the middle of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a TV or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the host ahead of time about special preparations.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Contacting 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 supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to succeed. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
Once hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to seek professional help. Modern 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 a lively social life once again.