How to Disclose your Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States. It is an invisible disability that affects many Americans – approximately 48 million of them. The effects of hearing loss on communication may cause frustrations with new acquaintances and old. It could make conversation at a casual dinner or any social setting difficult.
At the same time, it is important to bring attention to the invisible communication obstacle of hearing loss. So how does one discuss such a topic? Is there a way to effectively remind those of one’s condition in a way that can also help one?
Disclosure Methods from a New Study
Recently, Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers asked 337 people with hearing loss a 15-question survey to understand what strategies were most commonly used and if those methods were effective. They researched what language people used to disclose their condition and found three different strategies: nondisclosure, basic disclosure, and multipurpose disclosure.
We will explore these methods and their reception by others. Do you find yourself saying or using these strategies?
i.e. “I can’t hear you. Please speak up.”
Simply put, one doesn’t disclose their hearing loss and, instead, use phrases to indicate that one didn’t catch what was said. While these are normal statements to make for both non-hearing impaired and hearing impaired alike, what happens if one says this too often? For some it might not be necessary to mention one’s condition, but it’s important to keep in mind that this might result in a social faux pas. One may be perceived to be inconsiderate for not paying attention when, in reality, one was simply unable to hear what was being said.
i.e. “I’m partially deaf due to hearing loss.”
This doesn’t require mentioning the extent of one’s hearing loss but it isn’t uncommon to share details of one’s condition. This effectively results in bringing attention to one’s condition so others are aware. However, this only brings awareness to others without indicating better ways to accommodate for one’s needs whether that means facing one when others speak, speaking louder, etc.
i.e. “I don’t hear as well out of this ear. Please speak to me on my left side.”
In comparison to the other two strategies, multipurpose disclosure doesn’t only involve bringing attention to one’s condition but also offers strategies for others to better accommodate for better communication. Whether this includes mentioning which ear hears better or if it involves facing one so one’s hearing aid can better pick up conversations. It was also discovered that by using the multipurpose disclosure strategy, many found others to be of help, support or willing to accommodate for their hearing loss.
Why Disclosure Strategies Are Important
While this study looked to understand what strategies are commonly employed to mention hearing loss, it was also discovered that women who have hearing loss are more than twice as likely to explain their condition than men. No matter what reasons, thanks to this survey, researchers are now working to develop guides for health care providers to better prepare patients with ways to avoid social isolation and stay active in social settings with friends and family.
Senior author Konstantina M. Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, an otologic surgeon and researcher at Mass. Eye and Ear and an associate professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School, states, “We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them…Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking may improve communication.”
What do you think? Do you think there are better ways to disclose one’s condition? Is it important to mention one’s hearing loss to others?
If you believe you, or a loved one, are experiencing a hearing loss, contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers for a consultation.