Hearing loss interferes with the ability to communicate easily and effectively. Those who have had untreated hearing loss for a while might already understand this difficulty in communication. Untreated hearing loss is a danger because communication is at the heart of all our social relationships, and if we don’t have ways of communicating with others, we become socially isolated. When this happens, depression and even dementia might not be far away.
Hearing loss is an invisible disability. You could walk down the street, order a coffee and buy some groceries at the supermarket and people might not realize you have a condition. But in situations where more sustained and comprehensive communication is required, such as meeting friends or during a meeting at work, then it is better that others know of your condition.
The experience of hearing loss takes some time to get used to, and it can be hard to let people you aren’t close to know about your condition. Some people feel great shame, but letting others know will help facilitate improved connections between the speaker and the listener. Not only that, the method that you use can have a profound influence on your experience of hearing loss, according to recent research.
The Three Types of Disclosure Methods
A study was conducted by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear hospital to find out the different methods those with hearing loss used to talk about their hearing loss. Researchers gathered survey responses from about about 337 participants who had hearing loss. The results were then published in the journal Ear and Hearing.
The interviewers noted that there were three types of disclosure that the participants exhibited:
- Basic disclosure
- Multi-purpose disclosure.
The type of disclosure that the participants used had a significant effect on their experience of hearing loss.
Those who were non-disclosures did not mention their hearing loss at all, preferring to imply to others that thy had no problems with their hearing. If they are unable to understand what someone is saying, they are likely to say something like below:
“I can’t hear you, could you repeat that please?”
With this type of disclosure, the speaker isn’t aware of any problems, and will not change their behavior significantly to accommodate the person with hearing loss. It also shifts the responsibility and blame for the breakdown consistently on the side of the speaker, which is unfair and could lead to resentment.
- Basic Disclosure
Those who use a basic disclosure method let other know that they have a hearing loss, but don’t offer much more for others to facilitate communication. They might say something like:
“I’ve got problems hearing because I used to work in construction.”
Although the person offers an explanation, they don’t offer a solution to improving communication. The speaker is not given any instruction on how to best accommodate their hearing loss, so they may try things that may not necessarily help facilitate understanding, such as talking louder.
- Multi-Purpose Disclosure
Those who use this method both reveal their hearing loss and offer suggestions for the speaker to accommodate them. They may say something like:
“I’m having trouble hearing you speak. Could you sit facing the window? It helps me with lip reading.”
This helps the speaker understand that the person with hearing has a condition and is also aware of the best way to accommodate their particular needs.
Experts recommend the Multi-Purpose Disclosure
It’s no surprise that the researchers recommend using the multipurpose disclosure for talking about hearing loss with others. This is because others need to know two things before they can help facilitate communication: They need to know that you have a condition and they need to know the fastest way to help maintain the connection between the two of you.
“We think it is empowering for patients to know these strategies, and especially the multi-purpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” according to Dr. Konstantina Stankovic, one of the lead researchers on this study. “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking may improve communication.”
Hearing Care Centers
Hearing loss is hard on your social relationships, whether at work, or with friends and family. If you aren’t already using hearing aids, it’s never too early to start. Here at Hearing Care Centers, we have helped many people improve their lives through better hearing, and we would like to do the same for you. It all starts with a hearing test. If you would like to schedule one, please contact us today!