If you have hearing loss, it might seem like the easiest thing to do is just to keep it to yourself. Even your most sympathetic friends can struggle to understand what it is like coping with hearing loss. It’s the little things; like how it can be difficult to follow speech in crowded spaces, how loud sounds can be unbearable, or how exhausted you feel after a casual hang because you’ve had to strain to hear. As much as you try to explain they will never truly know what your experiences are like being hearing impaired.
However, not revealing your hearing loss can easily open you up to long-term hearing loss-related conditions such as social isolation, depression, and dementia.
Disclosing your hearing loss to friends and family can greatly improve your relationships. It can also help debunk the stigma surrounding hearing loss and play a part in educating people about some of the obstacles facing the hearing impaired.
The method you use to disclose your hearing loss can even have an impact on your quality of life and certain health outcomes.
In 2015, a survey was conducted on how people verbally disclose their hearing loss. Based on the most common phrases used by people to reveal their hearing loss, disclosure methods were broken into three distinct categories: non-disclosure, basic disclosure, multipurpose disclosure. Here’s a closer look:
“Can you repeat that please?”
Not saying anything about your hearing loss at all may feel like the default method of disclosure and a lot of times it is. There isn’t always room in an interaction to let someone know that you are hearing impaired. For instance, the handful of sentences exchanged with the check out person at the grocery store don’t necessarily warrant disclosure.
Sometimes, it’s easier to just ask someone to repeat themselves. Which is asking for accommodations for your hearing loss without disclosing your hearing loss. The main catch with the non-disclosure method is that it doesn’t ensure that your needs will be met in the future.
People who most often utilize the non-disclosure method tend to avoid discussing their hearing loss. These people may be in denial and refuse to seek treatment. They are less likely to use hearing aids and more likely to feel isolated and sad.
So maybe it works with a random check out person at the grocery store, but if you know you’ll interact with someone again (like say, your favorite barista) it might be worthwhile to consider disclosing your hearing loss.
“I have difficulties hearing.”
This method refers to disclosing simply that you have hearing loss without going into details. This method would be appropriate for your favorite barista or a casual acquaintance. This way at least, they are aware of your hearing loss.
People that utilize this form of the disclosure are more likely to discuss their hearing loss with close friends and family. However, they may still have a hard time opening up and asking for help.
While this disclosure method works to let someone know that you are hearing impaired it does not ensure that this person will know how to effectively communicate with you in the future.
“I have difficulties hearing. Can you repeat that, please?”
This is the most complete and efficient way to reveal that you are hearing impaired. You are both disclosing your hearing loss and also asking for accommodations. Those accommodations could be as simple as speaking slower or being in the same room when they talk with you.
People who practice a multipurpose disclosure method are usually already receiving treatment for their hearing loss. They tend to be proactive and willing to discuss their condition. They are more likely to have a balanced and open communication around their hearing health and needs.
A multipurpose disclosure method can be informative on many levels and helps to a hearing person communicating with a person with hearing loss.
With this method you discuss your hearing loss with people and also explain how they can help. You have opened a dialogue and brought awareness allowing for the possibility of improved future interactions.