Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters
Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Are you or a loved one experiencing hearing loss? Do you find yourself keeping this information only to yourself? While it may be easier to avoid the topic of hearing loss, it can be detrimental to your overall health over time. There are vast negative consequences to leaving your hearing loss untreated. It has been linked to social isolation, cognitive decline, potential falls, income disparity, and even depression.

Due to the social stigmas associated with hearing loss, it may be difficult to disclose your hearing loss to others, but as you would with any other health concern, it should be in your best interest to seek our professional help as soon as possible.

Demystifying Hearing Loss Stigma

Unfortunately in our society today, there is still much stigma surrounded by hearing loss. Those who initially fail to disclose their hearing loss to loved ones might focus on the contrast between their former self and their current self – being whole versus not whole or being abled versus disabled. Many people prefer to avoid the issue and try to hide the fact that they’re struggling to hear.

Similarly, society often links hearing loss to age and ageism. Due to this many may find that using a hearing aid to improve hearing health makes them “look old.” Likewise, people also fear that wearing a hearing instrument makes them look unattractive.

So, how do we demystify the stigma of hearing loss? Education is central. By informing the general public, along with those who may have untreated hearing loss, about the challenges of it and the benefits of treatment, we can foster an environment of understanding and inclusivity for those with hearing loss.

Accepting You Have Hearing Loss

If you suffer from hearing loss, don’t let the stigma prevent you from living a healthy hearing lifestyle. You may feel that a hearing device makes you look old or inadequate, but in many ways using a hearing aid will actually assist you in staying active and healthy, and increase your capabilities to engage. If you find yourself struggling to hear, by any means possible, do not hide it from your friends and family. Disclosing your hearing loss to close ones is an important first step.

Strategies to Disclose your Hearing Loss

Knowing that untreated hearing loss leads to not only the further inability to hear, but also other health risks, it is important that you disclose your situation to someone close to you. The sooner you do this, the better. For most, this is a first time experience and the challenges of sharing your hearing challenge with another person may be difficult. Knowing how and when to share your hearing loss crucial, as well as the types of disclosures that exist is important for you to take the next step.

A Massachusetts Eye and Ear study highlighted three disclosure strategies that people often practice. Knowing the type of disclosure type could improve your communication with your surrounding community. Research Konstantina M. Stankovic, senior researcher of the study, believes that through the surveying of 337 hearing loss subjects, they can help those with hearing loss “gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others.”

The researchers created a survey to compile phrases patients used to inform others know of their hearing loss. Findings from this survey led to three types of disclosures:

  • Basic Disclosures: people with hearing loss simply disclose they are facing hearing loss. They may also share minute details on their condition, but not much.
  • Multi-Purpose Disclosures: people with hearing loss disclose their condition and also request or suggest accommodations to improve communication.
  • Non-Disclosures: people with hearing loss in fact do nothing to disclose their condition. They generally act or pretend they are not experiencing any hearing loss.

Of these three disclosure methods, researchers recommend using multi-purpose disclosure, as it provides your friends and loved ones with suggestions on accommodating your hearing needs.

Seek Assistance from Professional Hearing Services

Even if you don’t think you are facing hearing loss, it is important to get your hearing tested. Hearing health professionals recommend anyone over the age of 21 to get a base line hearing test to be able to track hearing ability moving forward. If hearing loss is identified, our team at Professional Hearing Services will be able to not only guide you through the process of disclosing this to loved ones, but more importantly provide you with the necessary treatment to improve your hearing health today!

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