More than 37 million Americans have difficulty hearing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it one of the leading chronic health concerns in the United States.
When hearing loss appears in your life, adopting new communication strategies can seriously improve the ease of conversation. Choosing and using a Disclosure Strategy, or a way of sharing your hearing loss with people you are speaking to, is a proven and successful way to negotiate improved social interactions.
Types Of Hearing Loss
There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. The former occurs when there is an obstruction to sound reaching the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is most often reversible and common culprits include compounded ear wax, bony growths or foreign objects (typically occurring in small children).
The latter type of hearing loss, sensorineural, is a result of a problem in the structures of the inner ear or the auditory nerve. A majority of sensorineural hearing loss cases are irreversible and most are progressive. The leading causes of this type of hearing loss are aging and exposure to excessive noise.
How Hearing Loss Impedes Communication
We live in a highly verbal world and changes to hearing health can play a large role in reducing the ease and enjoyment of conversation. When age and noise exposure harm the sensitive cells of the inner ear, the result is lessened ability to hear the full frequency of sound, which impacts speech clarity. Access to high pitched sounds is typically the first to disappear. This can make understanding what people are saying particularly difficult.
At the same time, connection is a fundamental human need. When age-related or noise-induced hearing loss appears later in life and goes undiagnosed and untreated, some people may begin to avoid conversation as a coping mechanism. For many people with hearing loss, depression and a sense of isolation are reported.
Why A Disclosure Strategy Can Help
Letting people around you know that you struggle with hearing can assist in improving conversation in a few ways. Instead of concealing the problem, bringing it into the open can alleviate the burden of trying to get it right. Once you’ve acknowledged that you are having trouble hearing what is being said, it is easier to ask people to repeat themselves.
Disclosing your hearing loss recruits your conversation partner onto your side, and they now have a vested interest in helping you to understand. Even more powerful is sharing tips on the best ways to communicate, which immediately provides a solution in the short term and helps educate people about hearing loss in the long term.
Types Of Disclosure Strategies
There are two fundamental types of disclosure strategies. The first, a Basic Disclosure, simply means telling someone that you have hearing loss. It can be a charmingly simple sentence like I have trouble hearing.
A second type of disclosure statement also provides a solution and might sound like, I have trouble hearing, and it helps if you speak a bit slower and face me directly. Perhaps there are alternative tips that help you hear that you’ve discerned through trial and error. What’s important is that you share what works for you.
Practice your disclosure strategy sentence a few times by yourself until you feel comfortable. From there, begin practicing with a trusted friend. It isn’t easy to adjust to a hearing loss diagnosis, but even research on this topic shows that it does get easier to disclose over time.
Disclosing Hearing Loss In The Workplace
You might be a person who still operates in the workforce, where hearing loss can have professional consequences. Although it might feel vulnerable, disclosing hearing loss in the workplace is important.
Because federal protections are in place that prevent you from being fired or experiencing consequences as a result of disability, disclosing hearing loss to your employer can actually bring greater job security. What’s more, your employer is obligated to make reasonable accommodations for your hearing loss which can substantially improve your work life experience!
Schedule A Hearing Consultation Today
If you’re ready to investigate recent changes in your hearing, schedule a hearing consultation with us today. We’ll guide you through a simple hearing exam and thoroughly explain your results. Together, we’ll chart a better hearing journey for you.