Hearing loss is regarded as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Sadly, those with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is essential—both for earning empathy and for participating 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
Informing other people about your hearing loss may be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for instance, can create situations that are a great deal more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, shoot for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Rather, summarize your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best converse with you. As an example, you might say something like, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear due to an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help out a great deal.”
Provide others with communication tips
Once you disclose your hearing loss, others will be much 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 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 co-workers will respect the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication tips, the final consideration is the control of your environment. You’ll want to present yourself the best opportunity to listen and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by reducing distractions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When dining 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 afraid to speak to the host ahead of time about special arrangements.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Contacting the host before the party will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; set aside some time with your manager to review the preparations that give you the best chance to be successful. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Request professional help
As soon as hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to seek professional assistance. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to suppress background noise and enhance speech recognition, and they may be exactly what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.