Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing people can experience is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Sadly, those with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is vital—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
Telling others about your hearing loss may be embarrassing 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 create 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 talk louder.” Rather, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best communicate with you. As an example, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear because of an infection I had several 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, other people will be much less likely to become aggravated and more apt to make the effort to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, 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 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 shout.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication problems after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to listen and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by erasing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, find a calm, tranquil 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 emanating from a television or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the host in advance about special preparations.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same applies to work; schedule some time with your manager to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to succeed. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
Once hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to search for professional help. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to filter background noise and enhance speech, and they may be just what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.