Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing people can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Regretfully, individuals with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is critical—both for gaining 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
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll avert many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and compelling others to repeat themselves, for example, can create situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, shoot for complete 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 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 out a lot.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
After you divulge your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become frustrated and more apt to make the 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 yell 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 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 cope with communication problems after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your surroundings. You want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by eliminating disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, select a calm, tranquil restaurant and choose a booth away from the middle 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 hesitant to talk to the host ahead of time about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice can be applied to work; reserve some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to succeed. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Request professional help
When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to seek professional help. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be precisely what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.