When we meet someone new, we don’t want to experience the uncertainty that comes from the other side of disclosing we have hearing loss. Revealing something that feels vulnerable to you is hard. You want to be honest and open from the start. However, sometimes being open and honest can get you into trouble. You might lose a friend, a potential husband, a job, or the feeling of respect.
Sometimes we don’t know when it is a good time to tell others we’re deaf or hard of hearing. Too early, and then the other person can’t get past our disclosure, and that’s all they are fixated on. Too late, and they no longer know who you are anymore. Not telling the other person might be a relief. But is it worth the long-term ramifications? So when should you disclose?
Who do you want to build trust with?
Every strong relationship is built on a foundation of trust. Trusting one another is important to create a space for being vulnerable and living an authentic life. Yet, we don’t have to invest in building trust with every person we meet. Maybe your profession calls for you to be trustworthy all the time. But when it comes to our personal lives, we can decide who we’re deeply invested in. We must cultivate relationships with people we like, care and trust.
The degree of your investment toward building a relationship with someone will tell you when you should disclose. This someone could be a new friend you want to develop a further relationship with or a new romantic partner with whom you’ve gone on a few dates. The more you’re invested in building a relationship, the sooner it is important to disclose.
The character of the person can reveal a lot
Certain people have a strong sense of self. They don’t use their external environment or network as a reflection of their own self-worth or ego. They can engage with people of all ages, demographics, and abilities. They accept people for who they are.
Perhaps, they may have built their character through having a personal experience. Knowing how a family member was either bullied or harassed in the past. They develop a strong empathy for others. Not in a petty way but seeing people for who they are beyond their character and flaws.
People who are open and have a strong sense of self can be the clue and doorway to having an open conversation. They’re showing they are the safe type for sharing and being vulnerable. You can open up at any time you see such character and personality.
Your job may require you to do this from the start
In some countries, there are laws where disclosure is required for certain professions. If your job is high risk and your work has the potential to injure or harm others and yourself, you may legally need to disclose it from the start. While you may feel that your hearing loss isn’t a barrier, the company still has work safety regulations and health insurance policies to follow through on. If you are hiding the truth and your company is given a fine for improper workplace management due to perceived negligence, your company may want to protect itself and blame you for the workplace accident to get out of a hefty fine. The court case wouldn’t look promising. A simple disclosure would give them the responsibility and ownership to provide you with adequate resources and support to help you do your job well. It will protect you from any negative situation in the future.
When hearing what others are saying is becoming a challenge
We often converse with other strangers only to miss hearing what they say. We may be motivated to capture and engage in the conversation because we need the information others can access. You may be in a situation where you can’t make a mistake, like going to the wrong gate to catch your flight that is now boarding at a large airport.
You could miss out on vital information when you are not upfront with others. Now they are assuming that you heard everything and they got the message across. There’s no reason not to disclose. Do yourself a favor and let the other person know to improve the situation.
Often we met people, and we’re not really that interested in engaging in a conversation. We’re less motivated to communicate and let others know we can’t hear clearly. We attempt to fake it to move things along quickly. But if you are a social type and your extrovert personality is so strong you need to talk to people even when you never knew they exist five minutes ago, you will have a strong reason to want to let others know. You thrive on human connection, and you’re doing yourself a disservice to your mental health.
It’s none of their business
Frankly, you may not want to say anything to anyone. You may decide to keep it close to only a few people you care about in your life. That’s okay. Some people want to believe that their hearing loss doesn’t define who they are. They understand that they are more than a person with hearing loss. You already adapted and have ways to cope with your hearing loss without having to make a big event about who you are and your needs.
Whatever you decide, you’re building a foundation of healthy boundaries and self-respect for yourself and providing the loving support that you need to give yourself. Remember, you can’t control how others will react, whatever you decide. It’s not your job. Be comfortable with knowing that any situation can go either way. It can go badly, or it can go pleasantly well. The outcome isn’t important. It’s how you respond to your needs that matter. No one can care for you better than you can.
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