by Chelle George-Wyatt
Many people with hearing loss have low self-confidence. It is possible to take charge of hearing loss (instead of hearing loss ruling life) and build self-confidence up again. Begin building confidence in your personal environment. Starting small, choose something comfortable to work with and simply start.
Some of the suggestions for building confidence below require interaction with other people so make sure you have the right attitude. Make a pledge to be passive NO more and practice being assertive instead. Passive behavior is staying in the background not wanting to cause problems. Being assertive means to let people know your communication needs and ask for their help. Avoid being aggressive and demanding.
Here are some suggestions to work with.
Know your hearing loss. Educate yourself about your kind of hearing loss, why? To be able to describe to other people how you hear. Once you know this, you can accurately tell others how best to talk to you. This might seem hard at first but it gets easier with time and you will become more confident asking for accommodation.
- “Please face me when talking; I hear better when sound comes straight at me.”
- “I lipread, please face me.”
- “Background noise affects my hearing; can we turn the radio off or down?”
Educate yourself about abut Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs). Which ones work better for certain situations? Which public venues have devices to use? Ask for them, use them. Try them out first by getting a loaner from DSDHH so you know what works best for you.
- The PockeTalker for a long drive?
- The FM system for a wireless connection at a presentation?
- How about trying the CaptiView at the theater?
Be prepared, anticipate. Think ahead. Where are you going and what will be the listening conditions? What can you do to make it better? With anticipation it’s easier to get around the hearing loss obstacles and in learning this, we can feel more confident about doing new things
- Take an assistive listening system?
- Show up early to get the best possible seating?
- Contact someone a head of time to find out the setup and let them know what you need?
Set a small goal and achieve it. Start small, think of one thing you can do to put yourself out there again. The small successes will make you braver and you can build on your goals.
- Go to a presentation with a personal FM system and ask the speaker to wear it. (Show up early to talk to the presenter or email ahead of time.)
- Find a class offered for those with hearing loss and take it; speechreading, sign language, etc. In fact, get in touch with your state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center and see what they offer.
- Go to a captioned Broadway show. There are lots of captioned shows around the country usually in the bigger cities. If you can’t find one near you, see if you can get in touch with someone like Turner Captioning who does captioning in many cities to see if she can help you find one or get play near you captioned.
Change a habit. It will seem hard at first but it will get easier with practice. Be patient with yourself and others but keep at it. Habits are hard to break but it can be done.
- Be upfront about your hearing loss.
- Ask people to rephrase instead of repeat
- Mimic the way you want others to talk to you. Articulate with a moderate pace and always face them when talking.
Say what the heck and do it anyway. We tend to hole up and stay in our comfort zones. Once in a while say “yes” I’ll do it. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a try. If it doesn’t pan out the way you planned, think about it. What could you do next time to make it better? What might seem like a failure could be a step to a success.
- Go out to eat at a restaurant by yourself and practice ‘hearing’ alone.
- Go to that party you usually avoid if only for an hour. Practice being assertive with your communication needs.
- Go to see a movie and ask for an ALD.
Be who you are and stop being someone else. We are hard of hearing and it’s time to stop pretending to be hearing. We are hard of hearing and there’s no shame in that. It only means we have to do things in a different way.
- Stop bluffing!
- Ask for accommodations.
- Use whatever you need to get by without feeling guilty or weird.
Volunteer. Sometimes helping others is just what we need to feel better.
- Volunteer for a hearing loss cause. There are several organizations to volunteer with; The Hearing Loss Association of America, Association of Late Deafened adults and the SayWhatClub.
- Volunteer with hospice services. People in hospice care are Deaf and hard of hearing too.
- Offer your specialty services with any organization and help teach them about hearing loss along the way.
More suggestions for building self-confidence:
- Stay away from negative people; they are just going to drag you down. Find positive people to hang out with and find a group of hard of hearing people to hang out with to find positive role models.
- Look good because when you look good, you feel good.
- Stand tall. Straighten up and throw your shoulders back.
- Start an exercise plan. Feeling healthy helps you feel good too.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. For all you know they are comparing themselves to you and finding themselves lacking.
When you advocate for yourself you will become more confident and self-assured. In gaining confidence within your personal environment, you can take it to the next level and advocate in public. Later, you may even feel confident enough to advocate at the legislative level as well.
Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be gentle with communication requests and don’t give up. As Dr. Seuss said, “And will you succeed? YES! You will indeed, 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.” Oh the places we can go, if only we try.