Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Regrettably, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is vital—both for gaining empathy and for engaging in effective conversation.
Here are a few tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing other people 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 instance, can produce situations that are much 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 recommend ways the other person can best communicate 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.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
Once you disclose your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become aggravated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some suggestions 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 important; 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 respect the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your surroundings. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to listen and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When eating out, find a calm, serene 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 ahead of time about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice applies to work; reserve some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to realize success. 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 search for professional help. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and enhance speech, and they may be just what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.