Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Sharing your hearing loss with others can feel stressful or overwhelming. Acknowledging changes to hearing health and discussing hearing needs with loved ones, coworkers, and friends can be tough. But disclosing hearing loss and how you do it is actually incredibly important for your hearing health. It allows you to openly share your hearing needs and ways others can support those needs. This can profoundly support effective communication, improve relationships, and enhance the time you spend with others.  Common Disclosure Methods 

There are various ways people share their hearing loss with others. Some methods are better than others because they create more space to discuss hearing needs and strategies to support those needs. Various studies show that there are three dominant ways that people with hearing loss disclose their condition. This research highlights that the method of disclosure is significantly connected to experiencing greater success and ease with communication. These disclosure methods include the following: 

  1. Nondisclosure. Disclosing hearing loss means sharing the condition with others. So nondisclosure refers to not sharing your hearing loss and simply keeping it to yourself. For people with hearing loss, this often means using ineffective and indirect strategies to hide hearing loss. This includes: 
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder, or slower 
  • Pretending to hear or follow a conversation 
  • Missing words or parts of a conversation and not asking for clarification 

These strategies often result in miscommunication, frustration, and unpleasant 

interactions. People can feel like you are not really listening or are not present. Nondisclosure doesn’t directly communicate anything related to hearing loss and what you are experiencing. This makes engaging in conversations challenging and often creates more work for the person with hearing loss as they struggle through interactions with others. 

  1. Basic Disclosure. This method describes sharing hearing loss but not providing additional information. Basic disclosure is a great first step because it informs the people around you that you experience hearing challenges which can help illuminate why you may ask them to repeat something they’ve said or to speak slowly etc. But this method doesn’t share more information that can be useful for them to know. It does not invite them to also participate in making conversations more accessible for you. So a person may know that you have hearing loss, but they don’t know what they can do to support you. 
  2. Multipurpose Disclosure. This is the most effective strategy that is recommended by experts. Multipurpose disclosure involves not only sharing hearing loss but also discussing what others can do to help. This strategy involves complete transparency and a discussion of what your hearing needs are. Sharing the types of sounds, environments, and other factors  that make more hearing challenging allows others to learn more about the specifics of your hearing loss. This conversation also enables a discussion of communications strategies that maximize your hearing capacity. 

Sharing tips with others is such a great way to ensure that your hearing needs are met, making conversations much easier to engage in. This can include: grabbing your attention before speaking, facing you, avoiding multitasking during a conversation, turning down any background noise, rephrasing rather than repeating, speaking in a natural voice and not projecting etc. Effective communication requires the participation of everyone involved and multipurpose disclosure allows others to be involved in making conversations more accessible. Why Disclosure Method Matters.

Sharing your hearing loss and how you do so is important for multiple reasons. Choosing (or not disclosing) to inform others that you experience imparied hearing shapes how you navigate communication, interactions, and participating in activities with others. Nondisclosure creates greater challenges and strains communication which can take a toll on relationships. Multipurpose disclosure allows you to be open about your hearing needs and how others can support you. 

Your loved ones want to engage in conversation that is smooth and pleasurable for you so inviting them to help make that happen is important. Sharing this information can also alleviate the stress and anxiety you may feel about having hearing loss and how you can best communicate with others. Your disclosure method is also an imperative way for you to advocate for yourself and your needs which is critical for your hearing health and wellness

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