Have you ever heard of the phrase “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? Well this truism can now also be applied to telling others about your hearing loss. That’s according to a study which was conducted by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a research center which is part of Harvard Medical School. The study looked at 337 patients who had hearing loss, giving them a 15-question survey to get information about what patients actually said when they spoke about their hearing loss to others. They found that respondents generally used one of three strategies with each utterance.
Different Discloser Methods
Non-disclosers usually didn’t let anyone know of their actual hearing loss, but implied to others that they were the ones who needed to improve communication, Phrases like “I can’t hear you” and “Please speak up” were most often uttered by this group.
Basis disclosers are those who did admit to others that they had a hearing loss, and usually gave a reason for it. Crucially however, they neglect to provide guidance for the other person on how best to communicate with them.
Multipurpose disclosers both admit their hearing issues and suggest to the other person on the best strategy to foster smooth communication. This could be as simple as asking that person to talk on your left side as you might not hear as well out of your right ear.
Following the result of the study, the senior author and otologic surgeon Konstantina Stankovic recommended that hearing aid users use the multipurpose strategy as it “may help them gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others,” She saw it empowering for healthcare practitioners to educate patients about different ways to disclose your condition to those around you, so much so that she is currently working on a guide for healthcare professions on how they can better prepare patients to get the help they need in social situations. “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking may improve communication.” She said.
Results of the survey also indicated that women use multipurpose strategies twice as often as men, suggesting that it is women who find it easier to get the help they need in challenging social situations. They saw that they got the help and support they needed after disclosure. Men on the other hand made mostly basic disclosures. This makes sense since men are typically less likely to show vulnerability and ask for help even when they need it. The research shows however that men may be doing themselves a disservice by refusing to ask for help. Isolation and a loss of confidence can quickly grow from not being able to hear those around you.
Could you improve your multipurpose disclosures? Here are 3 areas you need to consider:
1. Loved ones
Your immediate friend and family will often be the first to notice your condition (even before you do), and will likely be the most supportive. If you are ready for hearing aids, you can ask them to come with you to the audiologist screening. They will serve as vital support and will round out information about how hearing loss impacts your lifestyle.
As for your partner, it’s a cliché to say that communication is the bedrock of a relationship but it is true. That is why you need to keep the lines clear for your loved one. You can explain to them what sounds are difficult to hear and what they can do to make it easier.
Talk to your boss for 20 mins to talk about your hearing loss, and explain how it affects your job. Don’t expect them to know what to do with this information. Ask them to consider putting you in front of the main speak during meetings, or assigning someone to provide post-meeting notes. This will minimise the possibility of you getting in trouble due to missed information in a meeting.
As for co-workers, it’s important that they know as quickly as possible as you will be teaming up with them on often important tasks. For work-related communication, ask them to email or speak to you in person before using the phone.
You don’t have to tell every stranger you meet about your hearing loss, but if you are communicating with them for an extended period, it would be helpful to share. You can explain to them that you might need a few things repeating every now and then because of your hearing.
Active Hearing and Audiology
Treating hearing loss is an important factor in clear communication. If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, do not hesitate in making an appointment with us at Active Hearing and Audiology for a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Our experienced team cares about your hearing health, and we would love to help you find a treatment plan that suits your individual needs.