Hearing loss is known as 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 people can experience is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regrettably, individuals with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is essential—both for attaining empathy and for participating 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 others about your hearing loss may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, aim for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak with you. For instance, 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 divulge 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 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 speaking with me.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.
Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by removing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, pick out a quiet, serene restaurant and select a table 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.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the host beforehand about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied 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
When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about 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, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.