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Hearing loss inherently challenges our ability to easily communicate, which is why isolation and depression have a higher rate of incidence in people who have difficulties hearing. Conversations and verbal interactions are often the way we can bond and connect with the people closest to us and we need connection for healthy emotional lives. Even our daily interactions with strangers and neighbors can help us to feel a more interwoven part of our community.

Just because hearing loss has entered your life doesn’t mean that these connections are lost to you. There are ways to develop more promising communication habits that accommodate your hearing loss and help you maintain healthy relationships and self-confidence in your new hearing reality. 

Disclose your trouble with hearing

Hearing loss is likely invisible to the people around you, and so communicating your needs is important. Disclosing hearing loss can help the people you interact with adjust their own ways of communicating to better serve you. 

This can be a very vulnerable step to take! Part of the process of accepting your new reality with declining hearing health is to begin to disclose your struggles with hearing to those closest to you when you feel safe to do so. When we confront aspects of ourselves that are difficult to deal with, like hearing loss, it can be tempting to let them linger in the darkness. However, it is by bringing them out in the open and into the light that we can truly begin to accept and heal our internal stigmas and shame.

While hearing loss can feel like a sensitive or vulnerable truth to reveal, it is simply a fact and nothing to feel ashamed about. Tell the people you are speaking with that you have difficulty hearing in conversation. Over time, this will become easier with practice until it is simply a detail of who you are in the world. 

Directly face the person speaking 

While spoken conversations are inherently verbal, we get a lot of additional cues from body language, facial expressions and the shapes people’s mouths make when they speak. Give yourself as much external information by directly facing the people you are speaking with. It can lighten the burden of hearing on your ears and help you to use context cues in conversation. 

Ask the person to rephrase

We’ve all smiled politely and nodded the third time we’ve asked someone to repeat themselves because we cannot bear to say ‘What?’ again. But having someone repeat the exact phrase we cannot hear isn’t doing us any comprehension favors. When living with hearing loss, it isn’t just a decrease in overall volume, rather, our hearing loss happens as we lose the ability to hear certain frequencies.

When a person simply repeats a phrase louder or many times, that doesn’t help us to hear what they are saying, as some of the words they are using might be outside the frequencies we can hear. Ask them instead to rephrase the thought, using requests like, “Can you rephrase that?” or “Can you say that in a different way?” Their word choice will change and may fall more within the frequencies we do hear.

Shift to written communication at the office

Hearing loss can do harm to your professional self-image, particularly in some toxic office environments that don’t leave room for mistakes or that prize productivity over emotional well-being. You can, however, take steps to shift the majority of your communications to email and online chat, which can help you to lessen the burden of verbal communications.

Let your colleagues know of your preference for email and chat over in-person conversations and phone calls. You might actually be doing your entire office culture a favor by eliminating unnecessary and time-consuming meetings. There is an entire meme culture around the idea that ‘this meeting could have been an email!’ 

Don’t wait on hearing loss diagnosis and treatment

People with hearing loss are often resistant to diagnosis and treatment. The average amount of time people with hearing loss wait to intervene is ten years! That’s a long period of time to suffer from disadvantaged hearing. 

Instead, take steps early on as you notice the onset of hearing loss. Our team of hearing health professionals stand at the ready to perform the simple and painless hearing consultations that can help you on your way to a better hearing life!