Confidence is hard to come by with hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss can suck the confidence right out of us. It creates continuous doubt…
- “Did I hear that right?” This keeps us from speaking up along with, “What if someone makes fun of me?”
- “What if I go and can’t hear?” Or, “What if it’s too noisy?” And, “It’s too much work to be out there.” It’s easier to stay home.
- “What if people get impatient talking to me?” This may be because someone in our past was impatient with repeats. Now we layer that thought onto everyone else. “What if everyone thinks hearing loss is a pain in the ass?”
Ableism from society also chips away at our confidence.
- Lack of understanding of accommodations for those with hearing loss.
- Resistance of live captioning, and/or showing open captions.
- Assistive listening not being well maintained. Getting the cheapest system, instead of offering a quality listening experience.
- People thinking our hearing aids fix our hearing loss.
- “Are your ears on?”
- “Turn up your hearing aids/cochlear implant!” As if volume is all we need.
- Forgetting it takes two to communicate. Not facing us to communicate. This happens out in public (facing each other talking used to be the polite thing to do, a social norm). It also happens at home and with friends too.
It’s not all done on purpose.
More often than not, it’s due to a lack of education, a variety of misconceptions and misplaced assumptions. This adds to our confusion and saps more confidence.
These thoughts keep us in a ‘safety zone’, at home. While it may be more comfortable at home, it’s not what we really want. Staying home helps in the short run, however it’s not helpful in the long term for a variety of reasons. Let’s interrupt that thought cycle and exercise our Hard of Hearing (HoH) muscles.
How can we build confidence with hearing loss?
It turns out, how to gain confidence is a common question and not just for people with hearing loss. There are several available blueprints to build confidence in general. Suggestions range from self awareness, to practice and seeking support. Allowing yourself to fail and then being compassionate to yourself when you do. Use these experiences as a learning opportunity. Don’t give up. Create realistic goals. Keep on keeping on until you’ve built a foundation that you feel good about. That’s how people build confidence in sports, public speaking, art and more. Let’s take a look at how this plays out with hearing loss.
Seek Supportive Relationships
Finding others who have the same challenges takes away some of the loneliness of hearing loss. Get involved with the hearing loss community. Not only do they provide support, they also give us inspiration. Borrow courage from those who’ve been on the path for a long time and use their support.
In our lipreading classes and monthly workshops, we bond and support for each other comes from all the students. There’s valuable feedback and different perspectives offered. When we are together in a safe environment, we share setbacks and celebrate wins. There’s a lot of empathy and understanding from the community. Find them. Find your role models for your own journey.
Encourage hearing family and friends to participate in events and classes with you. (We offer “buy one registration and get one free” for this purpose.) When they attend events with us, they learn how to provide a stronger support system. They learn how to boost our confidence and work with us instead of against us.
Learn More About Hearing Loss, Technology & Accommodations
This is self awareness. Learn all you can about hearing loss because it can help give you a sense of control. How do you hear? What sounds of speech are you missing? Will hearing devices help? The hearing loss community is especially helpful with this too. Ask them questions and they will help guide you.
Learn about your hearing aids and cochlear implants. Ask about programs and how to manage specific environments with your hearing devices. What are your device limits and when do they work best? How much speech do you understand with your devices on? How about without them? (Get your word discrimination scores!)
Bring your hearing partners with you to audiologist (AuD) appointments. They can offer ‘hearing’ insights and ask their own questions. If they can’t go, take notes or ask if you can record the important parts of the conversation with the AuD. Later, sit down with your partner and share. When hearing partners understand more, they can help us advocate. This helps those of us relax a little more. When we have less worries, we have more confidence to go into situations knowing we have support.
Accommodations boost confidence to participate. They are additional aids for communication. Personal hearing devices help but they have limits. What will it take to fill in the gap so you can venture out and participate? Hearing partners can also participate with us in this. They can learn things too and help brainstorm situations when it doesn’t work. Hearing partners can encourage us to try something new. Teamwork makes trying something new easier.
Here’s a game changer for those who feel like the burden of communication rests on their shoulders because they have hearing loss: If hearing people don’t do their part, we can’t do our part. However, hearing people won’t know what their part is until we tell them. That means we have to educate ourselves first and then learn to be PROACTIVE. We need to speak up to correct the misconceptions and let them know what we need. The family, friends and the general public will remain unaware until more of us speak up.
We have a huge chance of misunderstanding the conversation or asking for repeats when hearing partners DON’T use the 3 Golden Rules. It’s not our fault if we couldn’t hear when they didn’t get our attention first. If they weren’t facing us or within 6 feet when talking, it’s not our fault they have to repeat again. Working together creates better communication outcomes.
Explore. What do you need for better communication? Can you properly evaluate a situation that went wrong? When you can do this, it boosts confidence.
Hearing partners also help reconstruct communication breakdowns, it gets better when in the know. When they listen, learn and accept the changes in communication practices, you both build confidence. The hearing partner won’t ask them self, “Did he/she understand me” as often. Talk about it. Have a discussion. In fact, have lots of discussions.
Have we said “teamwork” enough yet?
Let’s face it. It’s not just what we’ll wear when we go out. It is also, how will we hear? Going somewhere without preparation is setting yourself up to be reactive. Planning ahead makes you proactive.
Think about where you’re going. What do you dread and how you might change it? Will a REMOTE MIC help? Can you plan the dinner out early, beating the crowd and noise? Can a quiet environment be set up? Do you need captions for this event? Assistive listening? Do you need to show up early and talk to people about your communication needs?
Setting Realistic Goals
A big part of confidence is having experiences and learning from them. You have to get out of your comfort zone and experiment. Doing things builds confidence. Start small and grow from there. Think about your hearing loss obstacles, find workarounds and then evaluate the experience to build your confidence.
Goals can look like:
- Obstacle: I can’t understand my doctor. Goal: I will try an ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) app at my next doctor appointment.
- Go a little further: Request CART/live captioning.
- At the next family gathering, I’ll ask everyone to face me while speaking.
- At work, I’ll give my coworkers the 3 Golden Rules.
- Next step up: At the next office meeting, I will talk about my hearing loss, common misconceptions and how best to talk to me. (Use your HoH community for support and suggestions on what to say.)
Evaluate each experience. What worked and what didn’t? Next time this happens, what would you do differently? (Watch our social media for more ideas on the ‘doing’ of hearing loss.)
Set goals to work on with your hearing communication partners. How can they help? Can you tackle situations together? Do they need to set goals of their own for better communication? What kind of support do they need from you, the person with the hearing loss? (It goes both ways!)
A few words on “failure”.
Chelle: I have failed more times than I can possibly count in regards to my hearing loss. Some obstacles wound me and my confidence more than others. I need a good cry and/or rant with my HoH community. After evaluating the situation for a day or two, I usually find specific steps to take for the next time. The learning never stops because now and then, I run into new situations where I bomb. Afterwards, I evaluate what happened and decide what to do next time it happens. (The preparation step.) Instead of calling it a failure, it’s just another experience. I am not perfect and I won’t expect that of myself (compassion).
Learn more with Hearing Loss LIVE!
Take a look at our LIMITS post. This may help you set realistic goals.
Learn more about hearing loss through our video presentation & workbook packages HERE.
Ideas at TED.com – How to Move on from failure and rebuild your confidence.