Hearing loss is identified as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can feel your frustration and stress. The only thing people can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, individuals with hearing loss seldom get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is critical—both for attaining empathy and for participating in productive conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling others about your hearing loss might be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, shoot for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please talk louder.” Rather, summarize your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best communicate with you. For 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 out a great deal.”
Provide others with communication tips
After you divulge your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become irritated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some suggestions for more effective 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 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 yell.
Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and pointers, 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 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 removing distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When eating out, go with a calm, tranquil restaurant and choose 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 TV or radio.
- Locate quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the host beforehand about special preparations.
Preparing in advance is your best bet. Approaching the host before the event will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; schedule some time with your boss to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to be successful. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.
Seek professional help
As soon as hearing loss begins to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to seek 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 take pleasure in an active social life once again.