Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, those with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for building empathy and for participating in effective conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling other people about your hearing loss might be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avert several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and forcing others to repeat themselves, for example, can create situations that are a great deal 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.” 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 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 a lot.”
Provide others with communication tips
Once you divulge your hearing loss, others will be much less likely to become irritated and more apt to make an 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 scream 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 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 guidance, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You want to present yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by cutting out disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, pick a calm, tranquil 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 emanating from a television or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to talk to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Contacting the host prior to the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice applies to work; reserve some time with your manager to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to realize success. Your supervisor will likely 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 seek professional help. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech recognition, and they may be exactly what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.