Talking about Hearing Loss_ Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Talking About Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

In Communiation, Hearing Loss by Aaron Gingrich

Based on a study by the Eye and Ear researchers of Massachusetts, there are effective methods to help you open doors to better communication for yourself and those around you.
The study involved over 300 participants using a survey containing about 15 questions and resulting in 3 strategies to help combat the struggle of those with hearing loss. As intimidating as it might seem, the studies have shown that the way we choose to reveal our hearing loss can set the foundation for better interpersonal communication!

Why Study Communication Methods?

Researchers created a survey to gather the varied responses people would use to inform others of their challenges in hearing and how they expressed them. These results were then analyzed by sociologist Dr. Jessica S. West, M.P.H., from Duke University, and categorized to help clarify the ways in which people expressed their challenges. From that point, the responses were then analyzed to form three distinct ways in which people spoke of their hearing loss in an informative or non-informative way to others. The findings are used to help health care professional assist their patients with tools for better and fuller daily communications.

Hearing decline is one of the most common sensory losses that we experience in our lifetime but there is a continual battle against stigma and often a fear of ostracization and discrimination.
Therefore, there is a hesitancy to reveal to others an affliction that might marginalize us in a social or work setting.

The general consensus is the openness, education, and strategy of the disclosures will actually increase confidence in those afflicted with hearing decline at varying levels, as well as instill awareness and increased communication for all parties involved.

Three Communication Strategies to Disclose Hearing Loss

There were three strategies of reveal that were formulated based on the results of the study:

  1. Nondisclosure: There is no disclosure of hearing loss but can include phrases or questions that aid the person with hearing loss. Example: “Please speak up.”
  2. Basic disclosure: There is a disclosure of hearing loss and includes some information relating to the condition. Example: “I’m a bit hard of hearing since the ear infection I got a few years ago.”
  3. Multipurpose disclosure: There is disclosure as well as a suggestion to aid in better communication. Example: “Would you please speak up (or repeat what you just said) as I am hard of hearing.”

From this study, researchers concluded that multipurpose disclosers who made suggestions for accommodations were more likely to have successful communication. Educating medical professionals and hearing specialists about successful disclosure methods is one of the benefits of the study. This is done in order to help them equip their patients with effective strategies to combat isolation and depression that hearing loss can expose them to. The above-mentioned strategies are meant to be used by those with hearing loss so that they can empower themselves. These strategies are to be used by people depending on need, context, and circumstance.

How Men and Women Differ in Disclosure Methods

It was found in through the study that men were more likely to reveal their hearing loss condition with details, but not as much with accommodation or basic disclosure. On the other hand, women were shown to disclose much more willingly, with suggestions on a hearing experience beneficial to those involved. The focus being placed on the accommodation, for example on what and how a better hearing experience can be created, is one of the benefits, according to the study.

To make the disclosure basic or multipurpose, to open dialogue in order to focus on what can be done to promote a fuller hearing experience as opposed to focusing on the condition alone, are techniques that require individual discretion and therefore need more support.

Researchers intend for this study on disclosure methods be made available to people with hearing loss, to improve their communication with their friends, family, colleagues, and community. It is also important for people with normal hearing to be become more aware of and modify their speaking behavior to facilitate a better communicative environment for those with hearing loss. The education of the public and continued research is imperative, but there is proof positive that facilitating conversation dealing with disclosure is productive technique in bettering the communication both the hearing impaired and those that engage with them.

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