Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can feel your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can experience is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss infrequently 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 effective conversation.
Here are a few tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll escape many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, strive for full 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. As an example, you might say something like, “I’m partially 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 lot.”
Provide others with communication tips
Once you divulge your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become irritated 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 shout 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 work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication guidelines, 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 attain this by removing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, find a quiet, tranquil restaurant and choose a table 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.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to speak to the host beforehand about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best chance 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. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Request 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. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech, and they may be exactly what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.