Hearing loss is commonly called 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 someone can experience is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Regretfully, individuals with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is essential—both for winning empathy and for engaging in effective 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 uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll escape many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for example, can produce situations that are even more uncomfortable.
When revealing your hearing loss, aim 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 communicate 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 out a great deal.”
Suggest how others can best communicate with you
After you disclose your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become irritated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this regard, offer your communication partners some tips 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 cues 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 yell.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication issues after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You’ll want to give yourself the best opportunity to listen and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by erasing distractions and background noise.
Here are a few guidelines:
- When dining out, find a calm, serene restaurant and select a table away from the middle 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 preparations.
Planning ahead is your best bet. Contacting the host prior to the event 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.
Seek professional help
When hearing loss starts 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 suppress background noise and improve speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to enjoy a lively social life once again.