Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or observe your hearing loss, and no one can feel your difficulty and stress. The only thing people can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, individuals with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is crucial—both for attaining empathy and for engaging in productive conversation.
Here are a few 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 may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll escape several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for example, can make for situations that are a great deal more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, aim for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, describe your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak 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 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 regard, offer your communication companions some suggestions for more effective 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 understand speech without straining.
- 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 respect the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication issues 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 surroundings. You want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by excluding distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, pick out a quiet, serene restaurant and select a table away from the center of the restaurant.
- At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a TV or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to speak to the host in advance about special preparations.
Preparing in advance is your best option. Contacting the host prior to the event will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same tips can be applied to work; set aside 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.
Request professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to seek professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to take pleasure in an active social life once again.