Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or observe your hearing loss, and no one can experience your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Sadly, those with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is vital—both for building empathy and for engaging in effective 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 might be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll prevent several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for example, can result in situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, strive for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Rather, describe your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best converse with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partially 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 great deal.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
Once you divulge your hearing loss, others will be much less likely to become aggravated and more apt to make an 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 yell across the room or from another room.
- Face to face communication is critical; visual cues 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 yell.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will respect the honesty and guidance, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and presenting communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You’ll want to present yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by reducing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining out, pick a calm, serene 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 coming from a TV or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to talk to the host beforehand about special arrangements.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same applies to work; schedule some time with your supervisor to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to be successful. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Find professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to search for professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to filter background noise and enhance speech, and they may be precisely what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.