When you first realize you have a hearing loss, you may put off telling your loved ones, try to ignore your hearing loss, and hope it won’t impact your life. However, the way you talk about and disclose your hearing loss to family and friends will have a big impact on your quality of life and effect the social and emotional support you’ll receive from loved ones.
Talking About Hearing Loss
How you approach your hearing loss will have a major impact on your health and wellbeing, as well as on your relationships with family and friends. One study asked 337 people to fill out a 15-question survey, and researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear analyzed the data to discover how people talked about their hearing loss. The surveys collected the exact phrases those with hearing loss used to talk about their hearing loss with family and friends.
Researchers found that there were three main disclosure methods being used. Depending on the disclosure method used to talk about hearing loss, the participants experienced more or less social and instrumental support from their loved ones. Learning more about these methods will help you choose the right disclosure method to talk about your hearing loss, and enjoy the best health outcomes.
The first group researchers discovered were people who refuse to talk about their hearing loss, don’t know they have hearing loss, or are afraid to tell their family they can’t hear clearly. Non-disclosers often use phrases such as “speak up” or “why are you speaking so softly?” and don’t disclose that they have a hearing loss. When you avoid talking about your hearing loss, communication partners often get frustrated or annoyed that you can’t follow what’s been said, ask them to repeat themselves, or fail to hear them all together. Non-disclosers have far worse health outcomes than the other two groups, and often face social isolation and loneliness.
The second group of disclosers are basis disclosers, who will occasionally disclose that they have a hearing loss. They may share some details about their hearing loss with close friends, and sometimes ask for support. A basis discloser might say “I’m having trouble hearing you” or “my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be.” While basis disclosers do occasionally talk about their hearing loss, they only disclose their hearing loss with people they trust, and while this will help them communicate at home, it can be extremely difficult to follow conversations in places with a lot of background noise, especially if no one knows about their hearing loss.
The final group are multipurpose disclosers who are very open about their hearing loss in many settings. They know they have hearing loss, are willing to share details with family and friends, and will ask for support when they need it. Multipurpose disclosers will say things like “I have hearing loss” and may suggest ways friends can help, such as “please turn down the music, the background noise makes it harder for me to hear you.” Multipurpose disclosers receive the most accommodation and support from friends and family, and are able to ask for specific help to hear better. They’re also far more likely than the other two groups to treat hearing loss with hearing aids, and effectively look after their hearing health.
Women Explain Hearing Loss Better
The study found that women are twice as likely as men to be multipurpose disclosers and are better at talking about their hearing loss. They’re more ready to admit they struggle to hear, and will ask for help in conversations. People who are multipurpose disclosers are able to maintain better communication and treat their hearing loss early.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you have yet to discuss your hearing loss with your family and loved ones, consider talking to them about your experience and accommodation needs. Become a multipurpose discloser, and be open about your hearing loss! You’ll be amazed at how willing your family and friends are to accommodate your hearing loss, and you’ll receive help and support when you need it. If you haven’t yet sought treatment for hearing loss, consider calling us today. Treating hearing loss can help you follow conversations, improve communication, and enjoy hearing all the sounds you’ve been missing.