Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Deafness and hearing loss are both socially stigmatized conditions in our society. As a result, many people with hearing loss are embarrassed to admit they have one. This is a problem because it makes it harder for them to seek treatment, leading to further problems.

In addition to being embarrassed by your condition and feeling ashamed or guilty about it (as if somehow you’re responsible), many people believe that hearing aids are just for the elderly or those with severe problems – not for them. Or they think they can “toughen up” and get by without help. And because they don’t know any better, they may think they’ll look silly wearing them in public or that their life will change dramatically once fitted with them. New technology has made these devices much less visible than ever before. 


Addressing Hearing Loss

The most important step you can take is to treat your hearing loss. Treating hearing loss brings significant benefits to your overall health and well-being. People with untreated hearing loss tend to earn less than colleagues who treat hearing loss with hearing aids or normal hearing abilities. 

Because hearing loss affects our speech recognition abilities, communication may become difficult, leading to frustrations and conflicts in our interpersonal relationships. Moreover, people with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for developing dementia, depression, stress, and anxiety. Over time, people with untreated hearing loss may isolate themselves by avoiding social situations where it may be challenging to communicate. 

Treating hearing loss begins with a hearing test. If a hearing loss is found, our team will work with you to find the appropriate solution to meet your hearing needs. The prescription of hearing aids, fine-tuned to meet your specific hearing needs, is the most common form of treatment. 

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Communicating Your Needs with Hearing Loss

Even with hearing aids, there may be moments where you need more access than others. For example, if you’re in a particularly loud restaurant or a public transportation hub, it may be difficult to hear even with hearing aids. Whatever the situation, it’s important to remember that help is available if you need it. It is a matter of communicating your needs to others. 

We all deploy different strategies when communicating with others. A study published in Ear and Hearing reveals that communicating your hearing needs is key to your overall communication experience with others. This study, conducted at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, surveyed 337 people who experienced hearing loss. The survey consisted of 15 questions about how people communicate their experience with hearing loss. 

Results showed three primary forms of communicators: non-disclosers, basic disclosers, and multipurpose disclosers.

Non-disclosers: Non-disclosers do not share that they are experiencing a hearing loss. Rather than acknowledging the hearing loss, they will use phrases that “normal hearing people may use.” they might say, “I can’t hear you. Please speak up.”

Basic disclosers: Basic disclosers acknowledge that they experience a hearing loss but provide no further details on the condition or how it may be accommodated. A basic discloser might say, “I worked in construction for many years and now experience difficulty hearing.” 

Multipurpose disclosers: Multipurpose disclosers share that they are experiencing a hearing loss, and they also offer tips on how to communicate with them more smoothly. For example, a multipurpose discloser might say, “I have difficulty hearing in my right ear. Please sit on my left side.” This gives other people the correct information to make adjustments to accommodate your hearing loss.


Why Your Disclosure Method Matters with Hearing Loss

According to senior author Dr. Konstantina Stankovic, the multipurpose disclosure method is the preferred strategy of the three. This disclosure strategy, she claims, may help people obtain the confidence they need to reveal their hearing loss and improve communication with others. Knowing that these tactics, particularly the multifunctional disclosure strategy, are available to patients can be empowering.

There’s no reason to live with untreated hearing loss. If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, visit us for a hearing test and consultation. We’ll work with you to reconnect with the essential people in your life. Contact American Hearing + Audiology for an appointment at one of our top-rated hearing centers.