Hearing loss is commonly called the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can experience is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for gaining 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
Telling other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avert several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for example, can make for situations that are a great deal more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, shoot for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Rather, summarize 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 a lot.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
Once 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 companions some tips 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 important; visual signs 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 work colleagues will respect the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication problems after the fact.
Control 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 present yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by erasing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, pick out a calm, serene restaurant and choose a table away from the center of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound emanating from a television or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the host ahead of time about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Contacting the host prior to the party will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same advice pertains 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 time to seek professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech recognition, and they may be precisely what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.