Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

We realize that alerting others about your hearing loss might be difficult. Many people will go out of their way to avoid disclosing personal information because they believe it will embarrass them. While it may be hard to do, disclosing your hearing loss has been shown in research to help facilitate communication and improve your hearing loss experience. 

Three techniques for disclosing your hearing loss

In a recent study, Duke University researchers interviewed three hundred and thirty-seven deaf people with hearing loss. As a result of the research, author Jessica S. West, M.P.H identified three primary ways people employ to cope with their hearing loss:

  1. Non-disclosure: Not telling anyone about the hearing loss instead of putting the onus for improving conversation on the other speaker. For example: “Could you repeat that, please?”
  2. Basic disclosure: Revealing the hearing loss itself, but not how the other person can help. e.g., “I find it hard to understand my friends in loud places.” 
  3. Multipurpose disclosure: Revealing both the hearing loss as well as a tailored solution to improve communication, e.g., “I have a hearing loss in my left ear. Could you stand on my right while we talk?”

The advantages of being open and honest

These approaches have advantages for effective communication, but multipurpose disclosure is the best choice in many cases. It provides more information about your hearing loss and establishes a support and accommodation structure to help you communicate effectively in the future. It’s the option most likely to help the person with hearing loss understand and communicate better. 

All of these approaches have one thing in common: they rely on clear communication. Even a basic disclosure of hearing loss draws attention to a person’s needs, even if it isn’t necessary for every setting. Using these techniques, the hearing loss and deaf community, which numbers 48 million people in the United States, can begin to advocate for their needs. 

According to Duke University research, females are more forthcoming and adept at disclosing their hearing loss to others with whom they communicate. According to research, women are twice as likely as men to use a multipurpose disclosure to communicate better. They also reported favorable emotions to multipurpose disclosure, which made them feel supported and helped them communicate better.

Breaking the stigma

People living with hearing loss are frequently ‘invisible,’ meaning they don’t all use hearing aids or other devices that could serve as a visual cue. An estimated 16 percent of persons aged 20-69 who could benefit from hearing aids have never used one, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 

These numbers show that hearing loss is still a reasonably private matter that isn’t quickly brought up in casual conversation. It can be a bit disconcerting to tell new people about your hearing loss. However, suppose you don’t do so. In that case, you put yourself at risk for other hearing loss-related concerns, including hearing fatigue and social isolation, by taking on the responsibility of listening harder or losing out on information.

According to the Duke University study, hearing health providers would better educate their patients on disclosure strategies and empower them to request accommodations for effective communication.

Disclosing a hearing loss might also make life easier when communication is more complex, like school or the workplace. It can facilitate large-scale communication by allowing numerous people to alter and adapt their communication styles to fit yours. 

There are lots of accommodations you can request. Instead of a crowded restaurant, you might go to the park with your friends, or meet in quieter restaurants. At work, you might ask for a desk in front of the window so that you can more easily lip-read. You might also ask for the front seat at a presentation or meeting. 

Treating Hearing Loss

A few examples of multifunctional disclosure and its possible long-term advantages are provided here. Regardless of the approach you choose, you must stay on top of your hearing health and seek help if you see any signs of hearing loss. All of our services are designed to help you keep your hearing healthy. Contact us to set up a consultation or appointment right away!