Disclosure Strategies that Improve Communication with Hearing Loss

Since hearing loss is an invisible condition, and treating hearing loss with hearing aids tends to mostly restore your abilities when it comes to communication, disclosure may not always be necessary. However, there may be certain instances when background noise is overwhelming and communication becomes difficult.

If you work in a noisy workplace, for instance, or if you’re meeting friends at a busy bar or restaurant, hearing aids do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to amplifying and elucidating sounds in your environment. Even so, disclosing your experience with hearing loss could help others around you accommodate you better, and ensure that communication channels are open and clear.

According to a study, the way in which we disclose our hearing abilities has a significant impact on how we communicate in our interpersonal relationships.

Study: Three Different Disclosure Strategies to Communicate Difficulties with Hearing

In an effort to better understand how people with hearing loss communicate their experience, Massachusetts Eye and Ear conducted a survey with 337 patients with hearing loss. Researchers were interested in developing resources for healthcare providers to pass on to their patients about the experiences with hearing loss.

According to Kostantina M. Stankovic, “Health care providers are in a key position to help patients learn how to disclose their hearing loss. We can educate them on the disclosure strategies we report on in our study, which may help them gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others.”

In this study, published in the journal, Ear and Hearing, researchers found that people could be categorized into three main groups: nondisclosure, basic disclosure, or multipurpose disclosure. Of the three, researchers found that multipurpose disclosure could help patients “gain confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others.”

The Three Types of Disclosure for Hearing Loss

People who fell into this category did not inform others of their hearing loss. Nondisclosers use language that people with normal hearing might when they do not hear something in conversation. This language has nothing to do with hearing loss. For example, they might say, “I can’t hear you. Please speak up.” This does not indicate to other parties in the conversation that hearing loss is central to the communication process.

Basic Disclosure
Basic disclosure clues people into the fact that a hearing loss is present. A basic discloser might say, “I lost some of my hearing due to an ear infection I had some years ago.” This form of disclosure lets people know that accommodations may need to be made when communicating, but the person with hearing loss does not offer any more information on what that accommodation might be.

Multipurpose Disclosure
Multipurpose disclosers will simultaneously let you know that they have a hearing loss and give you suggestions on how to accommodate communication with them. For example, a multipurpose discloser might say, “I don’t hear well out of my left ear; please walk on my right side.” This gives other people information that will make communication easier – for both parties.

Of the patients surveyed in this study, researchers found that women were more than twice as likely as men to use multipurpose disclosure to communicate their experience with hearing loss. Researchers hope that shedding light on this issue will encourage both hearing health providers and people with hearing loss on the benefits of multipurpose disclosure. “We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” says Dr. Stankovic.

Navigating Communication with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss could greatly affect the way you communicate. If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing ability, it is important to schedule an appointment with us at Neighborhood Hearing Centers to take a hearing test. Hearing tests indicate your hearing abilities by ear. If a hearing loss is present we can begin the process of fitting you for the proper hearing aid.

Hearing loss is a very common medical condition in the US, and affects about 20% of the population. Though there is stigma surrounding hearing loss, the reality is that it is an entirely manageable and treatable condition. With proper amplification through your hearing aids, communication no longer needs to be a struggle.

Though you may want to avoid discussing your hearing loss at first, keep in mind that your loved ones and your community want to support you and communicate as effectively as possible with you. For more information and tips of disclosing your hearing loss, contact us at Neighborhood Hearing Centers today.