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A staggering number of Americans suffer from hearing loss, estimated at more than 30 million people. When we look at the over-65 years of age demographic, the percentage of those who report having some hearing problems jumps to one-third of the population. Even though it’s a widely pervasive health condition, those who have hearing loss are reluctant to admit they have a problem.
There are many factors to consider once you receive a diagnosis of hearing loss, and the question of whether you should disclose your hearing loss to others is just one of them.
But often, the act of discussing difficult subjects with others helps us gain some perspective on them. Making decisions about how, when, and what to communicate about hearing loss is tricky.
The Psychology Of Disclosure
For many people with newly diagnosed hearing loss, the thought of disclosing their condition to others can be emotionally charged. This frequently occurs because ideas about our own abilities—or lack thereof—are clouded by sentiments of self-judgment and unworthiness. Although we can rationally acknowledge that being human entails shortcomings, owning up to those imperfections is frequently just out of our reach.
Reframe your hearing loss as a fact about you rather than as a statement about how valuable you are. Consider a statement being made about one of your colleagues by a coworker. They might inform you that Gerald has a back problem. Take note of your initial response. It most likely wasn’t “Well, Gerald’s flaws diminish who he is as a person. He is worth less because of his back problems.” It’s absurd! Most likely, you sympathized with the situation and your coworker.
Preparing A Disclosure Strategy In Advance Can Help
A 2016 study published in the Ear and Hearing journal investigated the impact of using a disclosure strategy. Researchers divided participant’s strategies among three categories: Multipurpose (“I have hearing loss and these are ways to better communicate with me”), Basic disclosure (“I have hearing loss”) and Non-disclosure (no disclosing of hearing loss).
They found that people who employed a Multipurpose disclosure strategy were typically met with reactions of help, support, and accommodation after disclosing. Among those who used a Basic disclosure statement, most felt somewhat more comfortable disclosing their hearing loss as time progressed and did not feel they experienced reactions of having their condition held against them.
Help Others Help You
A result of the above study was a recommendation from the group of researchers to give patients with hearing loss more information on disclosure strategies. While individual comfort levels will vary, learning about diverse approaches to telling other people about your hearing loss can help to guide each person’s ultimate decision.
Overwhelmingly, the Multipurpose disclosure strategy provides the largest opportunity for easier communication with people you encounter. This is because both the problem (hearing loss) and solutions (tips for better communication) are simultaneously proposed. With this method, the interaction can be improved in real time.
Using a simple phrase such as “I have hearing loss, so it would be better if we faced one another in conversation” can make a profound shift in how much effort is necessary to discern speech, one of the leading problems people with hearing loss encounter. Other suggestions which are probably quite clear to you, such as finding a quieter corner or simply asking for a pause to process what is being said, can save a frustrating conversation and turn it into a meaningful connection.
Connect With A Support Group
Perhaps one of the best resources for living with hearing loss is a support group, composed of other people facing similar obstacles. Support groups for people with hearing loss meet remotely on the internet or in-person within your community. You can find these established groups on the internet, though your audiologist may also offer helpful suggestions in linking up with a group of like-minded folks. They may even host support events for their clientele!
Listening to others’ experiences of disclosing hearing loss, or even the reasons they choose not to do so, can give you a deeper understanding of how to let others know about your own hearing loss.
Using a disclosure statement can extend the benefits of your honesty and vulnerability in the moment and have a much more far-reaching impact. With each conversation you have, informing others of your condition and ways they might adjust communication behaviors to accommodate you, you’re also educating folks on future interactions.
Get In Touch With Our Team
If you’re experiencing changes in your hearing health, get in touch with our team today. We can guide you through the ins and outs of hearing loss, from a general diagnosis to evaluating effective disclosure strategies.