Like many conditions, hearing loss exists on a spectrum. Some have severe or complete hearing loss that doesn’t respond to treatment. Others have mild to moderate cases that may go unnoticed by those around them.
Regardless, it’s important to support all people with hearing loss. Let’s look at a few ways to do that.
Don’t Make Assumptions About Hearing Loss
People with severe hearing loss are often stigmatized. Don’t assume that they are less capable at doing their jobs or functioning in the world. While they may need different accommodations than those without hearing loss, this has nothing to do with their ability.
On the other hand, if someone tells you that they have mild or moderate hearing loss, don’t minimize their experience, or assume they don’t need additional support. The severity of a person’s hearing loss does not necessarily correspond with their individual struggle.
Don’t Cast Doubt on Hearing Ability
Many people with hearing loss have what’s known as an invisible disability. This means their condition is not easily noticeable to others. You may be surprised to find out a friend or coworker is hard of hearing, especially if it is mild or they use a hearing aid that’s not easily seen.
It’s important to not let that surprise come across as casting doubt. Saying things like “I had no idea” or “You seem to hear just fine,” may seem like you are minimizing their condition, even if that wasn’t your intention.
People with disabilities often worry others won’t believe them when they disclose their condition. Data indicates that nearly 60% of Americans with disabilities feel that other people question their disability.
This type of doubt can cause people to not disclose their condition, which deprives them of accessing the full range of accommodations that may be available to them.
Ways You Can Help
If a friend or coworker informs you that they have hearing loss you can be helpful by:
- Thanking them for sharing
- Practice helpful communication strategies, like looking directly at them when you speak so they can read your lips
- Turn on captions when you’re watching TV or having a virtual meeting
- Ask privately if there is anything you can do to make certain events more accessible. For instance, you could say, “Is there anything you need to make communication easier when we go out to dinner at Firestone Grill?”
By supporting those with hearing loss you’ll help them to feel more comfortable asking for what they need.