Disclosing Hearing Loss to Others

Disclosing Hearing Loss to Others

If you have hearing loss, your inner reality can be quite different from the way others perceive and experience communication with you. Although you might know that you are only hearing a portion of what others say, they might not have much of an idea. As a conversation proceeds, it can become increasingly evident that you are not hearing everything, but that process of unfolding can take some time. By the time another person realizes that you are not hearing well, the conversation might have become awkward, strained, or confusing. One or both of you might have become frustrated, angry, embarrassed, or anxious in the process, as well. Rather than letting this situation become too difficult, there are steps you can take to disclose hearing loss to others in a way that makes it possible to communicate more effectively. Although this conversation might seem simple, full disclosure of hearing loss is the best approach. It doesn’t take long to let another person—whether a close loved one or a stranger in your community—know not only that you have hearing loss but what they can do to help. Let’s look at some of the ways disclosure can go wrong before considering the best way to talk about hearing loss with others.


The first type of partial disclosure isn’t really disclosure of hearing loss at all. Rather than letting someone know you have hearing loss, you might jump immediately to a request for accommodation. This request can take the form of asking someone to speak up, to come closer, to speak into your “good” ear, or to repeat what they said. These requests can make the immediate situation go more smoothly, but they are limited to the present. Although a person might step in and offer support in that conversation, they will not know they should do so in the future. Without realizing that you have an ongoing condition of hearing loss, they will be unable to provide similar support in your conversations down the line.

Partial Disclosure 

Another missing piece in some forms of disclosure is letting others know what they can do to help. You might feel like you are disclosing your condition when you say, “I’m hard of hearing” or “I’m sorry, I have hearing loss.” Letting others know about your ongoing condition is a great way to enable them to remain aware of your condition down the road. However, they might be left in the dark as to what they can do to help. Without knowing how to accommodate your needs, others can feel frustrated or anxious, as well. Unless you request support directly, some people can make failed attempts to help you hear. They might speak more slowly or raise their voices in a way that doesn’t really help you communicate.

Full Disclosure

The complete picture of disclosure not only lets others know that you have hearing loss but also asks for a specific step to make communication easier. When you tell someone you have hearing loss, simply follow-up by asking for something that will help. This person will then have the opportunity to remember that accommodation and to put it to use the next time you communicate. These conversations down the road can become easier when the other person knows what to do to support you.

The Durable Solution 

If these steps seem difficult or awkward in a conversation, they are no match for the difficulty or awkwardness of struggling through a conversation without help. Although accommodations can make a difference in your conversations, the only durable solution for hearing loss is to get treatment. Beginning with a hearing test, our hearing health professionals will arrive at a full diagnosis of your ability. We will let you know what aspect of your hearing needs assistance and recommend appropriate hearing aids or other assistive technology for your needs. Once you have hearing aids in use, you may be surprised to find how well they can serve your communication needs. Although disclosure may remain necessary in future conversations, your hearing aids may offer enough assistance that you won’t need to request accommodations in many future situations. Why not begin with a hearing test today?