Navigating conversations with hearing loss can be challenging. You may experience difficulty identifying individual words, especially in environments with background noise. This can lead you to asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, or slowly. Some people may feel uncomfortable asking for these adjustments because it signals their hearing loss. Not disclosing one’s hearing impairment can take a toll on conversations, further straining communication. Also, pretending to hear to get through conversations and missing what is being said is stressful. Sharing your hearing loss with others is an important way to support your hearing needs and strengthen communication. To feel less anxious about discussing your hearing loss, it is helpful to think about ways to disclose this information and the countless benefits of sharing this important information!
Research has shown that people with hearing loss often use one of three common methods to discuss their hearing health with others. This includes a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Researchers wanted to identify the language people use when sharing their hearing loss, referred to as disclosure methods. They surveyed 337 people, collecting and analyzing phrases they used to reveal their hearing loss. Researchers then grouped these responses in three main categories:
- Non-disclosure: this method involves not revealing hearing loss and finding ways to mask hearing and communication difficulties. This could include using phrases like, “I can’t hear, can you speak louder?” Using strategies like this during conversations requires the other person to make adjustments without actually knowing about one’s hearing loss. This unknowingly shifts the responsibility onto them to improve communication without really understanding the context.
- Basic Disclosure: describes a method in which people share that they experience hearing loss, often also sharing what caused the impairment. But not doing anything beyond this to support their hearing and communication. So people do not go further to share and practice ways to facilitate effective communication. This approach, though involves greater transparency, does not provide greater support to enhance hearing.
- Multipurpose Disclosure: this disclosure method involves not only sharing hearing loss diagnosis, but also discussing useful ways to engage in communication that best support hearing. People who employ this method share specific strategies that allow them to maximize their hearing and communication effectively. This could include: asking to lower the volume (or completely turn off) sources of background noise, shifting to make eye contact and maintain clear visibility, asking others to rephrase rather than repeat etc. Sharing these strategies makes communication easier and allows people to engage more easily.
Importance of Disclosure Method
The way you share your hearing loss with others shapes your hearing experience(s). If and what you choose to tell others informs the ways you are able to engage in communication. So not only is disclosing incredibly important, but going further and talking about effective strategies can transform interactions and communication.
Multipurpose disclosure is the most useful way of sharing your hearing loss because it invites others to participate in your exchange. Letting others know what they can do to better support your hearing makes conversations much more accessible. This not only benefits you but also others you are in conversation with. Effective communication involves everyone participating in the conversation which prevents the labor disproportionately falling on you (or the other person).
Useful strategies you can share while practicing multipurpose disclosure include:
- grabbing your attention before speaking which alerts you to the conversation and gives you time to prepare
- remaining visible so that you are able to see nonverbal cues, read facial expressions, have access to lip reading etc.
- shifting towards a specific ear if you are able to hear more clearly out of one ear compared to the other
- turning off, or reducing the volume, of music or TV that could be on in the background
- rephrasing rather than repeating a sentence that you experience more difficulty hearing
- avoiding multitasking during the conversation – texting, eating, cleaning etc. – which reduces distractions and allows everyone to be more focused and present
The way you disclose your hearing loss is important for your hearing health and daily life. Multipurpose disclosure strengthens communication which enhances relationships and enriches social life!
If you are ready to experience the life-changing benefits of hearing loss treatment, we are here to help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.