Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

For those first experiencing hearing loss, it could be a scary and tumultuous time. You may feel like you want to keep it to yourself and not seek help due to various social stigmas. In fact, it takes people who first experience hearing loss seven years before they seek out professional help. The downside of this is that the longer your hearing loss goes untreated, it becomes progressively worse. Fortunately, there are many supportive treatments that can improve your hearing health. If you are someone who is experiencing hearing loss or if you know someone exhibiting signs of hearing difficulty, it is important to take the first step and disclose your situation.

The Stigma of Hearing Loss

According to the Journal of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss, those with hearing loss are viewed “with a mixture of fear, scorn, distaste, misunderstanding and pity.” This stigma reaches as far back as the 1700s where hearing loss was viewed as an ailment or disability and was believed that individuals experiencing it were unable to even learn. Although the misconception of learning capacity being linked to deafness or hearing loss has subsided, more present day stigmas still exist. The most common stigma is that one seems “old” when faced with hearing loss. Other stigmas include being “less intelligent”, “mentally ill”, or “they only hear what they want to hear.”

What most people don’t know is that hearing loss can affect anyone and everyone. Many of us don’t realize that we ourselves may be experiencing some level of it. Declined hearing health is an issue that can be detrimental to anyone’s self-esteem and cause people to distance themselves away from close ones because of communication problems, and may even cause them to be looked down upon. The importance of overcoming the stigma is addressing the stigma.

Addressing the Stigma of Hearing Loss

In order to overcome any type of adversity in life, we must first acknowledge and address it. Specifically with the social stigma of hearing loss, it is important to first advocate for yourself. This means that you must overcome the fear of revealing your hearing loss to your community. Hiding your hearing loss and leaving it untreated only makes it worse as it impacts not only your social relationships; studies have also shown that untreated hearing loss leads to other health problems such as cognitive decline as well as depression and dementia. Although it might take time for you to disclose your hearing loss to a loved one, the fact is that doing so will lead you to a more improved life.

Disclosure Strategies to Improve Hearing Health

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear revealed three different strategies to address hearing loss that could improve communication for those facing hearing loss. The study surveyed 337 individuals with hearing loss to better understand the language they use with communication partners to disclose their situation.

Senior researcher Konstantina M. Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, an otologic surgeon and associate professor at Harvard Medical School believes that through the research they can education those with hearing loss on the “disclosure strategies…which may help them gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss and improve communication with others.”

Researchers created a survey to gather actual phrases that patients have used to let others know that they have a hearing loss. The findings from this resulted in a categorization of three types of disclosures:

  • Basic Disclosures describe those who disclose that they have a hearing loss and perhaps also share some details about their condition. Example: I am partially deaf due to an infection I had as a child.
  • Non-Disclosures describe those who do not disclose their hearing loss and use phrases that normal hearing people use; Example: I can’t hear you, can you please speak up?
  • Multi-Purpose Disclosures describes those who disclose their hearing loss and suggest an accommodation strategy; Example: I don’t really hear well out of my left ear, can you repeat that in my right ear?

Education on Disclosure Methods are Recommended

Researchers from the study believed that these disclosure methods “can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies…are available to them,” noted Dr. Stankovic. It is recommended that those with hearing loss have the opportunity to know about these disclosure methods as it may allow them to gain the confidence they need to disclose their hearing loss to a loved one and be on the right path toward improving their communication hearing health.

Seek Professional Hearing Healthcare

If you or a loved one is facing hearing loss, reach out to us at Focus Hearing for professional guidance. Our team will be able to help assess your level of hearing loss and provide you with information on methods and strategies to help improve your hearing health today!