Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can feel is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, those with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is critical—both for earning empathy and for participating in productive conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing others about your hearing loss might be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and forcing 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 speak up.” Instead, summarize your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best communicate 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.”
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 an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, 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 critical; visual signs and lip reading help me with speech comprehension.
- 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 obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You want to present yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by eliminating disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, go with a calm, serene restaurant and choose a booth 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 fearful to speak to the host ahead of time about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best option. Contacting the host before the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice pertains to work; set aside some time with your supervisor to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to succeed. 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. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and enhance speech, and they may be precisely what you need to take pleasure in an active social life once again.