Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

In Communication, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, News, Tips & Tricks by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Have you been avoiding telling your loved ones about your hearing loss? If you’ve been struggling to hear, how you choose to disclose your hearing loss to your family and friends can have a huge impact on how you experience hearing loss. As you get ready to have that conversation with your family, think about these three disclosure methods, and make sure you choose the most successful one.

Three Disclosure Methods

A 2015 study conducted by Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers found that most people use one of three disclosure methods to communicate about their hearing loss. Lead author Jessica S. West, a sociologist at Duke University, created a 15-question survey to find out how people open up about their hearing loss, and collected data from over 330 people with hearing loss. This data allowed them to discover how people disclose their hearing loss to loved ones.


The group of people with the least successful disclosure method were non-disclosers. As the name suggests, this group didn’t like to talk about their hearing loss, and rarely mentioned that they were having difficulty hearing. Rather than admitting they are struggling with hearing loss, non-disclosers will say things people with normal hearing would often say, such as “You’re talking too softly, please speak up.” They don’t want anyone to know they’re struggling to hear, and hope that if they ignore their hearing loss no one will notice. Unfortunately, this group method has very poor outcomes, with non-disclosers facing misunderstandings, embarrassment, and social isolation.

Basic Disclosure

The next group of people were described as basic disclosers. These individuals will mention their hearing loss when absolutely necessary, and will sometimes share details about their hearing loss. They might say something like “My hearing was damaged a few years ago from an ear infection, and since then I don’t hear as well as I used to.” While they don’t like to talk about their hearing loss, they do tell loved ones when they are struggling to hear. This ensures that they receive some help and support from their family and friends.

Multipurpose Disclosure

The final group were called multipurpose disclosers, and these people were open about their hearing loss. They’ll easily disclose their hearing loss whenever it’s needed, and even suggest accommodation strategies. For example, they might disclose that they’re a bit deaf in their left ear, and ask that you walk on their right side so they can hear you more easily. Interestingly, the study found that women are twice as likely as men to be multipurpose disclosers, and be willing to explain their hearing loss to others. This improves communication and this group reported having a lot of help and support from loved ones. They found that their families were very willing to provide accommodations to help them hear.

Successful Disclosure Strategies

Not surprisingly, multipurpose disclosure is the most successful disclosure strategy, and those who are open about their hearing loss, tell their friends and family they’re struggling to hear, and can suggest ways their loved ones can help them hear have the best outcomes. Those who are able to communicate effectively about their hearing loss enjoy higher quality of life, and don’t struggle with social isolation. Hearing loss has often been called an invisible disability since it’s not obvious when someone first meets you. But for those who are able to talk freely about their hearing loss and enlist the help of their friends can improve communication and strengthen relationships.

South Shore Hearing Center

The way you reveal your hearing loss has a significant impact on how you experience hearing loss, and predicts the help you’ll receive from others. If you’ve been struggling to hear, choose to become a multipurpose discloser, and open up to your friends and loved ones about your hearing loss. They’ll be happy to accommodate you in any way they can, and work with you to improve communication.

After you’ve had that conversation with your family, visit us at South Shore Hearing Center for a hearing test, and to discuss your next step towards better hearing. Our trained hearing specialists will be there for you every step of the way, from the initial hearing assessment to choosing the perfect hearing device, to follow up appointments for fittings, maintenance, and repairs.