For the nearly 48 million Americans with hearing loss, life can be full of challenges—at work, around family and friends, and in so many situations those who can hear take for granted. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept the status quo. By being an advocate for yourself, you can defend your rights and hearing health. Here’s how to get started.
Understand your hearing loss
The key to advocating for yourself is to understand the extent of your hearing loss and how it affects you. When meeting with a hearing care professional, it’s important to be open and honest. Is your hearing loss worse on one side than the other? Do you struggle to hear high frequencies, such as child or female voices? Do you have a ringing in your ears as well? Hiding certain symptoms can prevent you from getting the best treatment available.
Know your options
To be an effective advocate for yourself, you’ll want to have a say in the treatment you receive. It’s worthwhile to educate yourself about hearing loss and the different kinds of hearing aids to treat it. With so much information readily available, you can go into your appointment with a hearing care professional well prepared with questions and concerns to help ensure you get the appropriate care. If you disagree with what they recommend, you can draw on your research to explain why and work together to find a different path forward.
Be honest with others
Everyday conversations can be difficult with hearing loss, and even when fitted with hearing aids, certain listening situations can present some challenges. To make sure you don’t miss out, don’t be afraid to let others know you have trouble hearing and what they can do to make sure you understand what they say. Ask others to speak while facing you so you can read their lips or to repeat themselves rather than say, “never mind” or “forget it.” These minor things can make a huge difference.
Speak up if something isn’t right
Most businesses are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, hearing loss included. If you’re applying for a new position, or struggling to hear properly in your current one, you have every right to ask for reasonable accommodations to help you do your job and communicate effectively. Even public facilities are required make accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing. If you’re at a restaurant, museum, hotel, or other location where you have trouble communicating, don’t be afraid to ask for appropriate accommodations at these places either.
You are your best hearing loss advocate
While it isn’t always easy to advocate for yourself about something as personal as hearing loss, and there are many organizations devoted to doing so on behalf of others, your own voice is often the first and most powerful tool you have. To ensure appropriate treatment for your hearing loss, to feel a part of the conversations around you, and to safeguard against discrimination, it’s important to stand up for yourself.