If you have hearing loss, it is important to discuss your experience with your friends and family. Think you can keep your hearing loss to yourself, struggle in silence, and avoid dealing with the issue head on? Sadly, the longer you put off talking about your hearing loss, the worse your health outcomes will be, and your relationships will suffer. If your family doesn’t know you’re struggling to hear, they’ll think you’re ignoring them, being rude, or starting to lose your memory. Disclosing your hearing loss can make all the difference, and the disclosure method you choose matters.
Studying Disclosure Methods
A 2015 study by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear surveyed over 300 seniors with hearing loss to find out what disclosure methods are common among those straining to hear. Jessica S. West, lead on the study, published the findings in the Ear and Hearing journal, showing that disclosure methods matter, and affect health outcomes far more than you might think. They discovered three main types of disclosure methods, and these three types had distinct differences in term of successful and effective communication with friends and family members.
That’s right, you guessed it. Those with the nondisclosure pattern of communication didn’t talk about their hearing loss at all! This first category of disclosure methods was characterized by people who refused to talk about or acknowledge their hearing loss. Rather than opening up about their hearing loss, and letting others know they 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 would use in many situations.
Nondisclosures had negative health outcomes, unaware and non-supportive family and friends, and more relationship problems. They were also more likely to experience anxiety, stress, social isolation, and even depression and dementia.
The second disclosure method West found was Basic Disclosure, where the person struggling to hear will mention their hearing loss, and sometimes share a few details. For example, a basic discloser might say “I’m deaf in my left ear from an infection I had a few years ago.” While this might not provide a lot of help for the person trying to communicate with the discloser, being more open about their hearing loss did lead to better health outcomes for basic disclosures.
Basic disclosures received more support from family and friends, and were encouraged to seek treatment. Their conversation partners were more mindful of their hearing loss, and would try to make communication easier.
The most effective disclosure strategy is multipurpose disclosure. Those who choose to be very open about their hearing loss have the best health outcomes. These individuals not only talk about their hearing loss, but will suggest ways their conversation partner can help them hear. For example, they might say “I have hearing loss, could you turn off the music so I can hear you, and pull up a chair so we’re on the same level.”
Suggesting accommodation strategies 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 friends in getting hearing devices, and far more multipurpose disclosers successfully treated their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Talking About Hearing Loss
If you’ve been putting off telling your family and friends about hearing loss, now is the perfect time to talk about hearing loss. Become a multipurpose discloser, and open up about your struggles to hear. “We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” Dr. Stankovic said. “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss 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.