Discussing health matters can be really challenging. If you have hearing loss, sharing this with others can be overwhelming and stressful. People often avoid doing this which makes navigating communication even harder.
Disclosing your hearing loss is an important way to support your hearing needs. It also makes engaging in effective communication much more possible. In addition to disclosing your hearing loss, how you do so also matters. It is important to be intentional about how you share your hearing loss with others so that they understand how they can best support your hearing needs.
Types of Disclosure Methods
There are different approaches to sharing your hearing loss with others. Some disclosure methods are more useful than others at effectively communicating and advocating for your hearing needs. Studies show that the ways people often share their hearing loss can be categorized in the following ways: nondisclosure, basic disclosure, and multipurpose disclosure. Each method translates to how you will experience your hearing loss and the ease or difficulty with which you will navigate communication. The three disclosure methods are:
- Nondisclosure: this method means not sharing your hearing loss with others. Non Disclosure involves concealing hearing loss and the symptoms you experience. This can look a variety of ways including: pretending to hear, struggling through a conversation, not asking for clarification, asking others to repeat something they’ve said or to speak slower, feeling left out of conversations etc. This leads to unpleasant conversations that you are not able to fully engage in or be present for. How you respond is limited and you may even try to shorten conversations as much as possible. This can make others feel ignored or unheard, contributing to tension and distance in relationships.
The strain on communication not only affects relationships but also social engagement. Non Disclosure prevents people from knowing you have hearing loss so while you are struggling to hear during conversations, this can be read in various ways like disinterest or boredom. This can also make you feel more stressed and anxious because you are having to work to conceal or downplay your hearing challenges.
- Basic Disclosure: this method involves sharing that you have hearing loss with others without sharing more information that could be helpful. Sharing your hearing loss is a great first step because it informs others why you may ask for clarification or take a little bit more time during conversations. It gives them context as to why you may experience challenges during conversations or in social settings. But it doesn’t let them know how they can support you. This method does not involve sharing strategies or tips on what others can do during conversations to better support your hearing needs. So while it addresses any confusion about how you show up in conversations, it doesn’t provide further information about how others can also participate in communication.
- Multipurpose Disclosure: this disclosure method is the most affected and what is also recommended. Multipurpose disclosure not only involves sharing your hearing loss with others, but it also includes discussing specific ways people can best accommodate your hearing needs. This includes sharing communication strategies that best support your hearing during conversations – grabbing your attention before speaking, rephrasing rather than repeating, avoiding multitasking, facing you during a conversation etc. You likely know what works best for you during conversations and the strategies people can use to help make conversations accessible. This disclosure method entails sharing this information which allows others to contribute to engaging in effective communication. This method best advocates for your hearing needs and also makes effective communication a shared responsibility rather than you feeling the pressure of this individually.
While sharing your hearing loss can be tough, approaching it by using the multipurpose disclosure approach can set you up for long term success.
Why Disclosure Method Matters
Your disclosure method matters for several reasons. How you share your hearing loss with others really shapes how you will experience your hearing loss. Non Disclosure leaves you navigating conversations alone even if you experience symptoms that make it tough to hear. This creates greater challenges for you and can strain communication as well as relationships. On the other hand, multipurpose disclosure allows you to have an open conversation about your hearing loss and how others can support you. This alleviates any pressure or anxiety about having to conceal or minimize your hearing loss. It also invites others to help make conversations and social settings more accessible for you. This is one of the most effective ways you can support your hearing needs!