Hearing loss is regarded 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 aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, those with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for building empathy and for participating in productive 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 may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for example, can create situations that are even 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, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak with you. For example, you might say something like, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear because of an infection I had several 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 irritated and more apt to make an effort 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 scream across the room or from another room.
- Face to face communication is critical; 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 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 completely disclosing your hearing loss and providing communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You’ll want to give yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by removing distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, choose a quiet, tranquil 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 TV 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 pertains to work; reserve some time with your manager to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to achieve success. They’ll 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 about time to search for professional assistance. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.