Talking About Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*
Latest posts by Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS* (see all)

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. It seems to come so easily to some people to let us know exactly what is going on in their lives, and these openly sharing community members can help us all feel more welcome to share our experiences. Some others feel more hesitant about sharing their own experiences, and it can require the right context and relationship to make it possible to share. 

Wherever you fall on the continuum between these two communication styles, it is important to share the information with others that will help them support you. If others don’t know what is going on in your life, they won’t be able to step in and offer care, resources, and accommodations for your needs. In addition to the many other dimensions of our lives, this dynamic affects hearing loss, as well. Of those who have hearing loss, some are quick to tell others not only about their abilities and experiences but also to request help making it easier to communicate. On the other extreme, some people go as far as to hide hearing loss, keeping it from others as a way to preserve an unrealistic presentation of self. 

Let’s walk through the different communication styles that come into play regarding hearing loss, as well as the challenges they can pose for communication going forward. 

Styles of Disclosure

These different types of disclosure do not only apply to hearing loss but to many other parts of life, as well. What makes hearing loss unique is the ability for others to anticipate your needs and to respond. Take the first style of “non-disclosure.” In this most extreme form, some people do not say anything about their condition. Instead, they might simply ask others to speak up, repeat themselves, or just tune out and pretend others aren’t talking. Although you can get so far by asking others to repeat themselves, people might not realize that you are dealing with an ongoing condition. The next time they talk to you, these people are likely to respond with the same communication style. 

The second disclosure strategy is considered “basic disclosure.” In this case, you might tell someone that you have hearing loss, and that disclosure is better than none at all. However, without knowing how to help, others can continue to communicate in ways that aren’t helpful. 

The final disclosure style, “multi-purpose disclosure,” is the most comprehensive. Not only letting others know that you have hearing loss but also requesting help is the best way to make ongoing communication more effective. When you let others know that you have hearing loss, you can also make a request for a specific accommodation, such as speaking more loudly, coming into the same room, or standing closer. These requests help others develop habits that make communication easier in the future.

Durable Solutions

Multi-purpose disclosure is an important strategy for communication going forward, making it possible for people to know you have an ongoing need and also to know how to help you. However, accommodations for hearing loss only go so far. Speaking more loudly, standing in the same room, making your face and lip movements visible, and standing close by are all ways to accommodate people with hearing loss, and no one experience is the same as the next. 

Getting treatment for hearing loss also takes the pressure off constant disclosure with others, allowing technology to step in and help conversation flow. The latest hearing aids can perform many of the effects of accommodation, ranging from raising the overall volume to isolating the voice of a single speaker in a room with background noise. 

Disclosure is always a good idea, but getting assistance through hearing aids makes it possible to navigate through the world more easily, improving conversations with loved ones and strangers alike. If you decide that you are in need of hearing assistance, the first step is to contact us for an exam!