“It’s so loud in here!”
“The wind is so strong.”
“Your phone is breaking up and cutting out your voice.”
“Can you please stop mumbling?”
We’ve all used those excuses and we've all learned that somewhere down the line, they eventually do us no good. To admit that you suffer from hearing loss should not be embarrassing. However, for many it is - and telling other people that you’re hard of hearing can be difficult or uncomfortable. So, much like you would speak differently to your boss than you would your significant other, letting a person know you have hearing loss can be different based on how the person fits into your life.
In this article, we outline a few tips for letting the people in your life know that you have hearing loss and how you can work together to make the most out of your relationships.
Friends and family
The very people you’re closest to can actually be the ones that are the hardest to talk to about such things, but they are also going to be the ones that will notice it before others. In fact, your friends and family will probably be the ones who point out your hearing loss before you notice it. The problem with friends and family is that they may be prone to act as advocates, pushing you to the doctor’s office or to try hearing aids before you’re ready. Perhaps you do need hearing aids, but perhaps you don’t. The important point is that you are the one who ends up wearing them and you have to live with them. In the end, all that matters is that you need to be the one who is ready.
Kindly explain to them that, in fact, you do have difficulty hearing. However, you need to be the one to ask for help. If you are not ready to wear hearing aids, suggest ways they can assist in making it easier for you to hear and understand. If you happen to be ready to consider hearing aids, you can ask someone to accompany you to your hearing professional’s office. That person will be excellent support for you and will actually help you and the provider get the best overall view of your hearing loss and how it affects your lifestyle.
Your significant other
When you are in a relationship with someone, whether the relationship is brand new or going on thirty years, hearing loss can significantly impact how you communicate, express feelings, deal with difficult situations and even affect romance. Being open and honest with your significant other is key to keeping the peace in your relationship. If your partner also suffers from a hearing loss, it may be easier to explain your own loss and you may even bond over your shared difficulties. If your partner has normal hearing, it is best to tell him or her as soon as possible.
Perhaps visit a quiet restaurant, have a movie night at home or simply take a walk in a quiet park and explain to your partner which sounds are hard for you to understand, which environments make it hard for you to hear, how understanding speech is difficult and what they can do to help make it easier. While you might be initially embarrassed to let your partner know of your hearing loss, doing so will make them more conscious of your hearing and feelings. In doing this, you will be less likely to encounter conflict resulting from you missing a word or phrase.
If you’re like most adults, you spend more time at work than you do at home. Therefore, making sure your coworkers and supervisors know about your hearing loss can be a big key to your job performance and interactions with co-workers. Pull your boss (or supervisor) aside for a few minutes or schedule a coffee break meeting with him or her. Be sure to have their full attention. Explain how your hearing loss affects your job, what they and others can do to help.
Taking the time to sit down and tell your boss the difficulties you could face and making suggestions to overcome them will make your job easier and will prevent you from accidentally getting in trouble because you may have missed an important point in a meeting.
- Suggest that you are always facing the main speaker during a meeting or that someone is always in charge of sending post-meeting summary notes.
- Ask if your office number could be your cell if you have hearing aids that stream calls directly to your phone.
Your coworkers quickly become your friends, so it is often best to tell them once you start working with them or your hearing loss starts. You will interact on a daily basis and will need to trust in each other to accomplish tasks and assignments. Explain what sounds and words are hard for you to understand and which environments pose the greatest hearing challenges for you.
- Ask them to email or speak with you in person instead of, or before calling.
- If they forget about your hearing loss, you can kindly remind them that it's easier for you to understand if you’re facing each other.
This group could be the easiest, but also the hardest to tell about your hearing loss.
If the individual is a “work” stranger, it’s best to tell them of your hearing loss immediately, especially if this is the only time you will be speaking face to face. If you are not comfortable doing so, consider asking your boss before meeting this person to explain to him or her that you have trouble hearing and to suggest ways to accommodate you best. Work-related strangers could be clients or executives, and while they are typically people you don’t see often, their words are often the most important to hear. It is better to be upfront about your hearing loss so that you can have the best chance at understanding what they say and not feel like you’re on a different page or struggling to keep up with everyone else.
If the stranger happens to be someone you meet at a bar, party, at school or in an otherwise non-office situation, it is really up to you whether or not you tell them of your hearing loss. You might not be comfortable around the stranger and not want to share - and that’s fine. If a friend or family member you trust is with you, get them to mediate the conversation between you and the stranger. By doing this, you don’t miss anything and you don’t have to explain your hearing loss. If you feel comfortable telling the stranger, simply explain to them that you have hearing loss and may have to ask them to repeat things occasionally. They will understand your situation and respect you for being honest.
Ultimately, hearing aids can help you interact better with all of the groups mentioned above. Hearing aids may not be perfect; so it is still a good idea to be transparent and honest about your hearing loss. However, hearing aids can help you hear better while in quiet and noisy environments. They will help pick up on sounds you might otherwise miss and give you a much more enjoyable social experience. A hearing aid can ensure you aren’t struggling to understand something that may just be very important!
A local hearing professional can help you find the right hearing aid solution for you. We can connect you with a clinic in your area - click here or call (888) 919-6824.