Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or observe your hearing loss, and no one can experience your difficulty and stress. The only thing people can experience is their OWN frustration when they have to repeat themselves.
Regrettably, those with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is critical—both for building empathy and for participating in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling others about your hearing loss might be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for example, can produce situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, strive for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Rather, explain your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best converse with you. As an example, 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 great deal.”
Provide others with communication tips
After you divulge your hearing loss, other people will be less likely to become frustrated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication partners some tips 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 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 appreciate the honesty and guidance, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and providing communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When eating out, pick out a quiet, tranquil restaurant and select 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 television or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to speak to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same applies to work; set aside some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to be successful. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
As soon as 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 improve speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.