Talking about Hearing Loss - Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Considering that each person’s experience with hearing loss is unique to them, there are so many unknown factors surrounding hearing loss. It is impossible to even know exactly how many people suffer from it. Is it 38 million Americans or 48 million? Research estimates that it is somewhere within that range, meaning one thing is certain: hearing loss is far more common than most people are likely to assume. 

More than 13% of all Americans aged 18 and above suffer from it. And this ratio of the population increases steadily with age. More than one out of every three people aged 65 or older suffers from it and among those aged 75 and above, astonishingly, more than half of everyone suffers from hearing loss. Put another way, that means it is more likely than not, if you are 75 years old or older, that you suffer from hearing loss. 

Sadly, the vast majority of people with hearing loss do not seek appropriate treatment. Some studies estimate that less than one out of every five people do. This is a tragic statistic given the consequences of failing to treat hearing loss with the gravity that it requires. 

Most often hearing loss comes on incredibly gradually. So it is not uncommon for people to maybe not even recognize it themselves that they are suffering from hearing loss. All they know is they are getting more easily fatigued and disoriented and they cannot say exactly why. Whether it is the intervention of a loved one pointing out the symptoms to you, or you recognize the diminishment of your hearing on your own, immediate action to rectify the situation is imperative. Untreated, hearing loss compounds and spirals into emotional and psychological consequences, such as social isolation, loneliness, depression and even compromised cognitive functioning. 

Your Disclosure Method

One aspect of dealing with your hearing loss is telling others about it. The manner in which you choose to disclose your situation to others can have a tremendous effect on their response and this sets the template for how you will work together to effectively communicate. Knowing your options and the differences in their impacts will help you navigate the awkward transition of informing others. 

There are three main strategies of disclosure. 


Non-disclosure means simply not telling anyone, or basically hiding it. Most often this is accomplished by just using common phrases that anyone would use when they can not hear clearly, things like “I can’t hear you” or “please speak up.”

The big problem with avoiding acknowledging the problem like this, is that, obviously, others will not know about your condition, so they will have no motivation to modify their behavior to help accommodate communication. 

Basic Disclosure

Basic disclosure means telling others that you are suffering from hearing loss and maybe even going so far as giving a short explanation of the cause, for example “I am partially deaf due to my time selling concessions at the arcade.” This form of basic disclosure is helpful in that it makes others aware that you benefit from some intentional accommodations when communicating. But without giving them specifics, people will not know exactly how to help.

Multipurpose disclosure 

Multipurpose disclosure means informing others about your hearing loss and also suggesting strategies for communication. For example, one may advise someone, “I don’t hear as well out of my left ear. Please walk on my right side”.

Studies have shown that multi-purpose disclosure is far and away the most effective means of sharing your situation with others. The simple recommendations help guide others in how to effectively accommodate your disability, so they will have a much simpler time modifying their behavior. This could mean something as simple as intentionally facing you directly head on when they speak. People who use the multipurpose disclosure strategy are the most likely to find that others are helpful and supportive. 

Take Action Today 

Telling others about your condition using the multipurpose disclosure approach will likely be enough in itself to boost your confidence and improve your communication. The multipurpose disclosure is empowering.

Hearing health is a bedrock of your overall quality of life, the same as a healthy diet and exercise. If you think that you or a loved one might be suffering from hearing loss, make an appointment today with one of our specialists. We can help you determine the treatment plan that suits your unique requirements and your budget, including strategies for effectively informing others of your needs in a way that boosts communication.