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You can have a lasting impact on your social outcomes by disclosing your hearing loss to friends or relatives. It is not always easy to ask for accommodation with a condition so sensitive, but according to a recent study of communication strategy on hearing loss, the benefits are extensive.
Experts at Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital interviewed 300 older people with hearing loss to see what disclosure strategies are most widely used among those who find it difficult to hear. In the Ear & Hearing Journal, lead author Dr. Stankovic identified three disclosure strategies which led to widespread differences in outcomes.
Three ways you can talk about your hearing loss with others
- Nondisclosure: The person with hearing loss does not let anyone know that their hearing is compromised, but implicitly puts the blame on the speaker by asking them to talk louder or more clearly.
e.g. “what was that?”
- Basic disclosure: This group will let those closest to them know about their condition and will offer an explanation too.
e.g. “I have a hearing loss because I used to work in construction.”
- Multipurpose discloser: This group discloses their hearing loss and suggests the best way to improve communication.
e.g. “I have trouble hearing so it’s hard to hear you in this café. Let’s go for a walk.”
Unsurprisingly, the researchers advocate those with hearing loss to follow a multipurpose discloser when communicating their hearing loss to others:
“We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” Dr. Stankovic explains.
Why a multipurpose disclosure strategy is difficult to use?
Disclosing your hearing loss with multipurpose disclosure is, however, easier said than done. There is still a stigma about hearing impairment in our society. Most people prefer to hide the problem and try to disguise their hearing difficulties.
What is the reason for this stigma? As a society, we tend to venerate youth and ridicule older generations. As a result, many fear that by letting others know about their hearing needs, they look old. Similarly, they are worried they may look unattractive and ‘past it’ by going one step further and using a hearing aid.
Although it is not easy thing to do, the multi-purpose disclosure approach can actually empower and increase confidence in those impacted by hearing loss at varying levels, as well improve the quality of communication for both conversation partners.
Let’s look at some practical ways in which you can use a multipurpose strategy in your day-to-day life.
Offer tips to help others communicate with you
You know better than anyone else about the nature of your hearing loss. By simply sharing information about it, you can help others better communicate with you and help you keep in good contact with friends, family and co-workers.
- Ask others to face you, especially those who tend to cover their mouths when speaking.
- Ask others to speak with clear pronunciation and an appropriate volume. This doesn’t have to be extremely loud for you to hear them. Yelling appears to distort sounds and makes it harder to understand.
- Let your friends, co-workers and loved ones know if any particular conversational cues make you hear better. Is it helpful for them to tap you on the shoulder, or say your name before speaking to you? Do you have to speak to people one-on-one to best understand others? Make your inclinations known to people.
Control your environment
As you probably already know, listening can be tough for people with hearing loss in public settings. You can set the stage for more efficient, impactful interactions by taking control of the contexts in which you communicate.
- If you’re having trouble hearing a conversation in a crowded space, ask the person you’re talking to step into a quieter place, like a lobby or in a separate room.
- Tell others not to call out from other rooms to you, but to move to a spot where you can see them when they are talking to you.
- If you can communicate better from one ear than another, don’t be afraid to ask for seating to improve your chances of hearing.
If you are prepared to let others know about your hearing loss, you’re also ready to visit us for a hearing examination at Audiology Concepts. Our team of certified hearing experts will check your hearing and provide the best advice on technology that will to help you stay connected with the people you love, as well as those around you.