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Hearing loss is regarded as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can see or observe your hearing loss, and no one can sense your difficulty and stress. The only thing someone can sense is their OWN aggravation when they have to constantly repeat themselves.

Regretfully, people with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why revealing your hearing loss to others is essential—both for earning empathy and for engaging in productive conversation.

Here are a few tips you can use to disclose your hearing loss to others.

Full disclosure of your hearing loss

Telling others about your hearing loss might be awkward or uncomfortable, but in doing so you’ll escape many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and compelling others to repeat themselves, for example, can make for situations that are a great deal more uncomfortable.

When revealing your hearing loss, aim for full disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, summarize your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best communicate with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partly deaf in my left ear because of an infection I had several years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help a great deal.”

Suggest how others can best communicate with you

After you disclose your hearing loss, others will be less likely to become frustrated and more apt to make the effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication partners some suggestions for better communication, such as:

  • Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t yell across the room or from another room.
  • Face-to-face communication is important; visual cues and lip reading help me understand speech without straining.
  • Get my attention before communicating with me.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to yell.

Your friends, family members, and work colleagues will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.

Control your hearing environment

After fully disclosing your hearing loss and providing communication guidelines, the final consideration is the management of your surroundings. You want to give yourself the best opportunity to hear and communicate clearly, and you can attain this by erasing disruptions and background noise.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • When eating out, pick a quiet, serene restaurant and select a booth away from the middle of the restaurant.
  • At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a television or radio.
  • Locate quiet areas for conversations.
  • Don’t be hesitant to talk to the host ahead of time about special arrangements.

Planning ahead is your best bet. Approaching the host before the party will give you your best chance at effective communication. And the same advice applies to work; reserve some time with your manager to review the arrangements that give you the best chance to be successful. They’ll appreciate the initiative.

Find professional help

Once hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s time to search for professional assistance. Today’s hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their capacity to suppress background noise and improve speech recognition, and they may be just what you need to take pleasure in a lively social life once again.