Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

by Dr. Kevin Ivory

If you have hearing loss, itis important to discuss your experience with your friends and family. Think youcan keep your hearing loss to yourself, struggle in silence, and avoid dealingwith the issue head on? Sadly, the longer you put off talking about yourhearing loss, the worse your health outcomes will be, and your relationshipswill suffer. If your family doesn’t know you’re struggling to hear, they’llthink you’re ignoring them, being rude, or starting to lose your memory.Disclosing your hearing loss can make all the difference, and the disclosuremethod you choose matters.

Studying Disclosure Methods

A 2015 study by researchersat Massachusetts Eye and Ear surveyed over 300 seniors with hearing loss tofind out what disclosure methods are common among those straining to hear. JessicaS. West, lead on the study, published the findings in the Ear and Hearingjournal, showing that disclosure methods matter, and affect health outcomes farmore than you might think. They discovered three main types of disclosuremethods, and these three types had distinct differences in term of successfuland effective communication with friends and family members.


That’s right, you guessed it.Those with the nondisclosure pattern of communication didn’t talk about theirhearing loss at all! This first category of disclosure methods wascharacterized by people who refused to talk about or acknowledge their hearingloss. Rather than opening up about their hearing loss, and letting others knowthey were straining to hear, they’d use phrases such as “I can’t hear you,please speak louder,” and other phrases that someone without hearing loss woulduse in many situations.

Nondisclosures had negativehealth outcomes, unaware and non-supportive family and friends, and morerelationship problems. They were also more likely to experience anxiety,stress, social isolation, and even depression and dementia.

Basic Disclosure

The second disclosure methodWest found was Basic Disclosure, where the person struggling to hear willmention their hearing loss, and sometimes share a few details. For example, abasic discloser might say “I’m deaf in my left ear from an infection I had afew years ago.” While this might not provide a lot of help for the persontrying to communicate with the discloser, being more open about their hearingloss did lead to better health outcomes for basic disclosures.

Basic disclosures receivedmore support from family and friends, and were encouraged to seek treatment.Their conversation partners were more mindful of their hearing loss, and wouldtry to make communication easier.

Multipurpose Disclosure

The most effective disclosurestrategy is multipurpose disclosure. Those who choose to be very open abouttheir hearing loss have the best health outcomes. These individuals not onlytalk about their hearing loss, but will suggest ways their conversation partnercan help them hear. For example, they might say “I have hearing loss, could youturn off the music so I can hear you, and pull up a chair so we’re on the samelevel.”

Suggesting accommodationstrategies meant that multipurpose disclosures had clearer communication,stronger relationships, and an easier transition to a life with hearing loss.They were also far more likely to receive support from their family and friendsin getting hearing devices, and far more multipurpose disclosers successfullytreated their hearing loss with hearing aids.

Talking About Hearing Loss

If you’ve been putting offtelling your family and friends about hearing loss, now is the perfect time totalk about hearing loss. Become a multipurpose discloser, and open up aboutyour struggles to hear. “We think it can be empowering for patients to knowthat these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, areavailable to them,” Dr. Stankovic said. “Hearing loss is an invisibledisability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearingloss while speaking may improve communication.”

Visit Us at Glendora Hearing

Talking about hearing loss will improve communication, and help you maintain your quality of life. After you’ve told your loved ones about your hearing loss, visit us at Glendora Hearing for a hearing test. We’ll help you discover your hearing range, and you can see for yourself what sounds you’re missing. Then, we’ll work together to find the perfect hearing aids that will have you hearing clearly.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
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Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

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