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How to talk about your hearing loss
Living with hearing loss is surprisingly common: it is reported that about 20 percent of Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Yet, it is still possible to feel alone with this condition, commonly called “the invisible disability.”
Hearing loss is not immediately apparent to others, which can lead to frustration when they have to repeat themselves. Hearing aids can greatly improve communication and minimize stress, but it is sometimes still necessary to communicate your hearing loss to those around you.
Letting people know about your hearing loss will not only help you to communicate effectively with others, but also prevent you from feeling unnecessarily isolated. Although talking about your hearing loss can be difficult, this discussion will make your life easier in the long run. Here are some tips you can put to use when talking about your hearing loss with others.
Fully Disclose Your Hearing Loss
You may feel uncomfortable telling others about your hearing loss, but doing so will help you to avoid awkward or confusing situations, such as missing out on jokes or often asking others to repeat themselves, without them knowing why. Aim for full disclosure when talking about your hearing loss — summarize the extent of your hearing damage and describe environments which are particularly difficult for you, and what sounds or noises make understanding speech difficult. As a follow up, suggest ways the other person can help you to hear and understand them; for example, suggest they sit on your right side if you are partially deaf in that ear.
Offer Communication Tips
After you reveal your hearing loss, you’ll find that other people are much more likely to be supportive, sympathetic and mindful in their efforts to communicate clearly. You can further aid this process by offering your communication partners some specific tips to ease understanding. For example:
-Please don’t shout across the room or from another room.
-Face to face communication is best; I often rely on visual cues to help me understand speech without straining.
-When possible, make sure you have my attention before speaking with me.
-Speak slowly and clearly, but shouting is not necessary.
Your friends, loved ones, and coworkers will be grateful for your honesty and guidance, and communication obstacles will be further reduced for both you and your conversation partners.
Control Your Hearing Environment
The final matter to consider, after fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, is to make sure you have the best chance of hearing well by reducing distractions and background noise. Of course, it is not possible to completely control your sound environment, but here are a few tips that will help you to make it as stress-free as possible:
-Choose a calm, serene restaurant when dining out with companions. If this is not possible and you find yourself in a noisy setting, it’s best to choose a table away from the center of the restaurant.
-At social gatherings, you’ll have most success understanding conversations away from background noise such as TV or the stereo. Ask your host beforehand if a quieter place will be available.
-Seek out quiet areas for conversations.
-Preparing in advance will give you the best chance of effective communication. Set some time aside before parties (or work meetings) to review the setting and make suggestions to your host (or manager).
Enlist a Professional
Hearing loss can make social occasions more of a burden than a pleasure, but this needn’t be the case. Being professionally fitted with hearing aids can make a huge difference in your ability to understand others, by suppressing background noise and helping with speech recognition. Hearing aids, along with an honest discussion about your hearing loss, will make communication a joy again, in all manner of settings. Contact us at Hearing Aid Associates for a hearing evaluation and hearing aid fitting.