Hearing loss is regarded as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can sense your frustration and stress. The only thing people can sense is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss infrequently get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is vital—both for gaining empathy and for engaging 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
Telling other people about your hearing loss may be awkward or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll avert many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and requiring others to repeat themselves, for example, can create situations that are a great deal more uncomfortable.
When disclosing your hearing loss, strive for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and suggest ways the other person can best communicate with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear due to 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 disclose your hearing loss, others will be 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 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 understand speech without straining.
- Get my attention before speaking with me.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.
Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will respect the honesty and tips, and you’ll avoid having to deal with communication obstacles after the fact.
Manage your hearing environment
After completely disclosing your hearing loss and supplying communication guidelines, the final consideration is the control of your environment. You want to present yourself the best chance to listen and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by removing 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 emanating from a TV or radio.
- Find quiet areas for conversations.
- Don’t be fearful to speak to the host in advance about special preparations.
Planning ahead is your best option. Approaching the host before the party will give you your best chance 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 succeed. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
Request 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 ability to suppress background noise and enhance speech, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.