If you have hearing loss, there are plenty of ways others can help maximize your hearing during conversations. But this requires disclosing your hearing loss with those around you so that they are aware and can contribute to creating accessible environments. Though this may sound simple, it can be challenging for people to share information about their hearing health.
When you miss something that has been said or need clarification, what do you do? It is common for people to not say anything which results in greater difficulty navigating conversations, social settings, work etc. Talking to others about your hearing loss is a useful way to prioritize and support your hearing needs. It is important to think about the way you share your hearing loss (your disclosure method) with others so that your hearing is supported and you are better able to navigate communication!

Types of Disclosure Methods
There are different ways to share your hearing loss and some strategies are better than others, offering others more space to participate in maximizing your hearing during conversations. Research shows that there are three primary ways that people with hearing loss often disclose their hearing loss. The way that hearing loss is disclosed is often tied to experiencing support and success in the future. The three disclosure methods are:

Nondisclosure
Disclosure means making new information known so nondisclosure involves not sharing at all or sometimes barely discussing the information. The way non-disclosure often looks for people with hearing loss is not letting others around you know that you have hearing loss but experiencing various challenges during a conversation. You may ask the other person to repeat something they’ve said, speak louder, speak slower, etc. This is the least effective method because it does not directly inform people of the underlying hearing loss condition. This strategy could make others feel like you are not paying attention or are uninterested in the conversation which can lead to unpleasant interactions, distance in relationships over time, and anxiety. If people that you interact with regularly do not know about your hearing loss, this makes engaging in effective communication with them challenging.

Basic Disclosure
This type of disclosure is stage one of sharing information. It involves sharing that you have hearing loss or can struggle with hearing in certain settings. This makes the other person aware of your hearing loss, providing them with more context as to why you may experience some difficulties during conversations or in social settings. Though this is a great first step, it doesn’t provide the other person with more information about how they can support your hearing needs. Just because the person knows you have hearing loss does not mean that they automatically know how to provide useful support that helps with communication.

Multipurpose Disclosure
The recommended strategy for disclosing that we have a hearing loss is multipurpose disclosure. This method takes basic disclosure further, involving sharing hearing loss as well as ways the other person can best help. Discussing specific ways the other person can accommodate your hearing to make conversations easier, maximizes hearing capacity and your ability to fully participate in conversations.

Multipurpose disclosure can be as simple as stating that you have hearing loss and it would be helpful for the other person to face you while speaking or to grab your attention before starting a conversation. Other strategies you can share include: asking others to remain visible so you have access to nonverbal cues, reducing unnecessary background noise, avoiding multitasking during conversations, rephrasing rather than repeating, etc. This disclosure method strengthens communication and best supports people in maintaining connections in the long-run.

Why Disclosure Method Matters
Choosing to share your hearing loss and how you do so is important for a variety of reasons. The way you disclose this information informs your hearing experiences and communication on a daily basis. Nondisclosure leads to navigating more communication challenges whereas multipurpose disclosure provides long-lasting support. Effective communication involves everyone involved in the conversation and should not simply be the responsibility of the person with hearing loss. But this involves including others in the process and allowing them to practice strategies that create accessible conversations. Multipurpose discolored not only enhances hearing but also strengthens communication as well as relationships!