Hearing loss is commonly called the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can feel your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Sadly, those with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for gaining empathy and for engaging in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Informing others about your hearing loss might 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 produce situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, aim for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Instead, summarize your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best speak with you. For example, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear because of an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help a great deal.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
After you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be less likely to become irritated and more apt to make the effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication partners some tips for better 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 cues 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 work colleagues will respect the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication issues after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your surroundings. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by cutting out distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, pick out a calm, serene restaurant and select a booth away from the center 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 in advance about special preparations.
Preparing in advance is your best bet. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice pertains to work; schedule some time with your boss to review the preparations 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 about time to search for professional help. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to suppress background noise and improve speech, and they may be just what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.