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Tips to Improve Communication with Hearing Loss
Hearing loss may be the third most common medical condition in the United States – affecting 20% of the population, or 48 million Americans – but it is also an invisible condition.
As such, it is not immediately apparent that a person with whom you are communicating is experiencing hearing loss.
A new study has found that the way in which people communicate their hearing loss could potentially affect their relationships. Hearing loss comes in different forms, degrees, and configurations. Each person hears differently, and the experience of hearing loss will also differ from person to person.
In the same way, people communicate their hearing loss differently, as found by researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, published in the journal Ear and Hearing.
Disclosure Strategies for Hearing Loss
Everyone communicates differently, as we know. Some people are better at disclosing their feelings and experiences than others. This is the same when it comes to hearing loss.
Researchers conducted a study with 337 participants who experience hearing loss, and asked them about the phrases they’ve used to let others know about their hearing loss. From these results, researchers categorized the participants in three groups, based on their disclosure strategies.
Non-Disclosure: “I can’t hear you. Please speak up.”
Non-disclosure means that people who experience hearing loss do not let others know about the condition of their hearing. “I can’t hear you. Please speak up” is in fact a very common phrase that people with untreated hearing loss will say. Because hearing loss is gradual and often develops over years, it may not be clear right away that someone is experiencing hearing loss. At the same time, people who experience hearing loss and use hearing aids may also experience difficulty hearing in certain situations. Rather than addressing their hearing loss, they prefer to use neutral phrases with no reveal.
Basic Disclosure – Basic Details
People who fall under the category of “Basic Disclosure” give minimal details about their condition. They do not give much beyond the facts that they are experiencing hearing loss and perhaps what the cause is. Basic disclosure is important because it lets others around you know that you are experiencing hearing loss and therefore could help with communication. At the same time, it may not provide people with enough information to communicate effectively with you.
Multi-Purpose Disclosure: More In-Depth Detail
Multi-purpose disclosers will tell people that they are experiencing a hearing loss, and provide further information on how people may communicate with them effectively. For example, a multi-purpose disclosure would say, “I don’t hear as well out of my left ear. Please walk on my right side.” This will help people understand the best way to communicate – which in turn improves communication and relationships!
Tips on Disclosing Your Hearing Loss
Researchers of this study found that “women with hearing loss were more than twice as likely as men to explain the condition to others in a way that also helps foster communication.” They also found that people who used “multipurpose disclosure strategy reported having experienced reactions of help, support, and accommodation after disclosing.”
Hearing loss could be a very isolating condition. Untreated hearing loss, especially, has been linked to increased rates of depression, stress, and anxiety, and general social withdrawal. But it is important to keep in mind that your family, friends, and loved ones are all on your side – and they are ready to support you if you provide them with the tools.
Researchers from this study recommend multi-purpose disclosure, which “may help them gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others.”
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, or you believe your hearing abilities are changing, contact us at Hear Care Rhode Island. We provide consultations, hearing tests, and support on the journey to better hearing.