Picture this: You’re sitting on your patio on a beautiful spring day with your friend. You notice that you’re having trouble hearing what they’re saying and keep losing track of the conversation.
“What?” you blurt out. You’ve already said this about ten times and you’re starting to feel like a pest. The key to avoiding these awkward interactions in the future? Communicate more, not less.
Honesty is your best policy
Talking to friends and acquaintances when you have hearing loss might be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are honest and let them know you have trouble hearing, it will make future conversations flow better and alleviate at least some of the pressure to hold up your end of the interaction. This is a far more effective approach than letting your hearing loss discourage you from socializing at all, which can contribute to stress, anxiety disorders, and depression.
If you have hearing loss, you’re probably used to making adjustments in order to effectively communicate with others who hear well. But the burden shouldn’t only rest on your shoulders. Your hearing friends and associates can ― and should ―adjust their own communication styles to better suit your needs. But they can only do this if you’re honest about them.
Control your environment when possible
Socializing should be enjoyable, but certain environments are more conducive to conversation than others, especially if you have hearing loss. Being honest about your condition means not being afraid to say you have greater difficulty hearing out of one ear and prefer to sit on a certain side of the table at dinner. Or that you have trouble hearing in noisy surroundings and would prefer a going to a quieter restaurant than originally planned. Those who want to spend time with you should have no problem accommodating reasonable requests like these.
It’s best if you can choose the setting for a social engagement, but of course that’s not always feasible. If you can’t avoid spending time in a noisy place, find ways to manage the situation instead. Position yourself next to whoever is speaking. Pay close attention to others’ body language and hand gestures, and watch their lips as they speak. If you are having a hard time understanding someone, make sure to tell them, as they might be able to do something about it. Simply nodding and pretending you understand will only get you so far ―and could lead to misunderstandings ranging from humorous to disastrous.
Finding a solution is better than struggling
Remain calm and positive, be honest, and know that it will be easier to adjust to a life with hearing loss if you utilize open communication. That includes being honest with yourself.
When you find communication has become a problem you cannot avoid, when you realize how much it is interfering with your ability to enjoy life, it’s time to stop working around your hearing loss and do something about it. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional about getting a pair of hearing aids that will let you hear without straining, even in noisy environments.