When you are living with hearing loss, there might be times where you have to explain to others what they can do to enable better communication with you, or times where you call a hotel and have to explain to them what kind of services and accommodations they should (and legally must) provide for people with hearing loss. These situations can be frustrating, but if you have patience, advocate for yourself when necessary and teach others about your needs while living with hearing loss, you’ll be helping more than just yourself but also the hearing loss community as a whole.
Some people are shy about speaking up, and that’s OK. But there are various things you can do to advocate for yourself and others living with hearing loss, including:
Keeping a blog
Many people enjoy maintaining a blog to talk about their personal lives with hearing loss. Some popular ones include Shanna Groves’ “Lipreading Mom” blog and Gael Hannan’s “Better Hearing Consumer” blog, in which they talk about the ups and downs of life with hearing loss. But if you are prone to writing but don’t necessarily want to talk about your personal life, you could also write about developments in hearing technology or advocacy and policy issues.
Joining an advocacy organization
There are many hearing loss advocacy organizations that work on behalf of and with people who are hard of hearing to enact changes on the local, regional and national levels in public policy. One popular one is the Hearing Loss Association of America, which provides both advocacy and information. Check out their website to see if there’s a local chapter to join! If not, why not start one yourself?
Taking time to explain to others what you need
Conversation can sometimes be frustrating or disheartening when you’re speaking with someone new, who doesn’t yet understand that you have hearing loss or how he or she can help make the conversation run more smoothly. Of course, you have to do your part, too, but you can do a lot by just telling that one person your needs. Be up front that you have hearing loss and say things in a polite way, such as:
- “I’m really interested in what you have to say, but if you don’t face me, I have a really hard time hearing because I use lip reading to supplement my hearing.”
- “Could we chat in a quieter room? I have hearing loss, so it’s a bit difficult for me to hear you or see your face in this loud, dark room.”
Asking for changes in your workplace
Many times, people are uncomfortable speaking up about hearing loss. However, if you’re having difficulty hearing and communicating with people at work, you should work with your boss or HR person to help find solutions. They could be as easy as moving your desk away from noisy areas, or purchasing a CapTel captioned telephone so phone calls are much easier. Not only are you advocating for yourself but you’re advocating for others with hearing loss who might join the company after you.