Hearing loss is commonly called the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your difficulty and stress. The only thing people can feel is their OWN aggravation when they have to repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people 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 a few tips you can use to communicate your hearing loss to others.
Full disclosure of your hearing loss
Telling others about your hearing loss may be embarrassing or distressing, but in doing so you’ll avoid several other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for example, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, aim for complete 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 converse 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 great deal.”
Provide others with communication tips
Once you disclose your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become frustrated and more apt to take the time to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some tips for more effective 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 important; visual signs and lip reading help me with speech comprehension.
- 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 tips, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication problems after the fact.
Control your hearing environment
After fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to listen and communicate clearly, and you can accomplish this by erasing disruptions and background noise.
Here are a few tips:
- When eating out, pick a calm, serene restaurant and select a booth away from the center 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 hesitant to talk to the host in advance about special arrangements.
Preparing in advance is your best bet. Approaching the host prior to the event will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same pertains to work; reserve some time with your boss to review the preparations that give you the best chance to achieve success. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Request professional help
Once hearing loss begins 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 precisely what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.