What’s your comfort level with hearing loss?
Is it possible to be comfortable with hearing loss?
Chelle talks about shame and how she got over it. Julia covers the hearing side because hearing folks aren’t always comfortable with hearing loss.
Being comfortable with hearing loss means different things to different people. You can explore this topic with us all month with this blog, a podcast and through our YouTube channel.
Register for our workshop January 3rd from 6:00 – 7:00 PM and share your ideas with us. Can’t attend that night? We will have a presentation with workshop info available on our YouTube channel shortly after the event for a limited time. (PS: We think the live events are better because of the participation.)
What Being Uncomfortable with Hearing Loss is Like
Chelle: Being comfortable with my hearing loss is something I struggled with for years. There were several years I hid it. Why? Because I was 23 years old, too young to wear hearing aids. My then husband teased me telling me I was a defective model. He might have to trade me in. He used to turn the captions off on the TV because they were in his way. When repeating, he could be nasty about it and he would use my hearing loss to his advantage. With all that, it’s no wonder I was uncomfortable with hearing loss. My thinking was that everyone thought the same as him; my hearing loss was a pain in the ass. (Side note: we got a divorce.)
It took time to unlearn being protective and fearful about hearing loss. That came step by step with my next husband who was also my best friend. He didn’t mind my hearing loss or my captions. Repeating things was no big deal for him, he did so easily. He was good about cluing me in on situations. At first I was horrified about how open he was with others about my hearing loss. However, this is how I learned most people were willing to work with me. Thanks to this husband, I stopped hiding my hearing loss.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Even though I was much better about telling people I had hearing loss, I wasn’t able to share best communication practices. I didn’t know what I needed. Conversation was hit and miss and could be very frustrating, even with my hearing aids.
Then came the next big drop in hearing. Here’s where I hated my hearing loss. This was no-man’s-land. Nowhere close to hearing and not Deaf either. I was lost and angry. If I couldn’t be hearing again, let’s just stab my ears with a pencil and be done with it.
Yes, I really thought that and expressed it out loud once. My husband never forgot that statement. No one seemed to understand hearing loss. Here’s new hearing aids, you’re all better now. I was not all better. In fact, there were times when I was entirely stuck. I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about hearing loss, hearing aids and more. Anything. Everything that might help and it did help.
Having a Tribe Behind Me
After a few years, I learned how to live with my current level of hearing loss. Thanks to some of the best people I know, who also have hearing loss, I learned more about my communication needs and the available accommodations. They helped me find my place again in the world. With their help, I learned to be comfortable with my hearing loss. Even though my hearing still sucks, I actually “hear” better than ever because I learned how to be proactive. I learned to be successful with and without my hearing aids.
Hearing partners need to be comfortable with hearing loss.
Julia: When hearing partners are not comfortable with hearing loss, we set unachievable hearing communication goals. An example: “You need to go get hearing aids so you can hear me better.” It’s not you vs me, it is a “we” thing.
Twenty years of attending hearing loss support groups as a hearing partner has taught me to have a conversation about hearing loss. We have to have several conversations to become comfortable with hearing loss. We have to be comfortable with communication adjustments that will be worked on together.
What works for us
My husband has had a mild hearing loss for 8 or so years. It has not progressed. He does not wear hearing aids and that’s his choice. I support his decision. The sounds my husband is missing do not affect his quality of life. When/if he gets to the point he wants hearing aids, we will have a conversation to work on communication and being comfortable with the next change.
Right now when he needs extra volume for understanding, he uses his noise canceling bluetooth headphones. We tried a few different brands and wound up with Blue Tiger as his favorite. He has one pair he uses with his phone and another pair for television.
Our outdoor adventures are not hearing aid friendly. He enjoys planes, trains and automobiles and dreams of becoming a mountain man. Black powder rifle and all! For him outdoor hearing protection is what is needed to protect his hearing from further loss.
Communication rules are by far the best way, in my opinion, to get comfortable with hearing loss. We started using them long before hearing loss was part of the marriage equation.
- Get his attention: We’ve been married almost 30 years. That means we do a lot of “uh-huh” marital bluffing that has nothing to do with hearing loss.
- Face him the whole time: This way I can tell if he is understanding what I’m saying. He can watch my facial expressions and listen to my tone to better understand the conversation. Yes, it turns out I have a “no bluffing look.” We are talking 30 years folks, 30 whole years.
- Be within six feet: Outdoor activities can be tricky with this rule. Try some different scenarios if you like talking and walking. We do a lot of “uh-huh” here too. We may have one or two dogs with us too. One of us is in front of the other person/dog so we fit on the sidewalk. Odds are the conversation is with the dog not each other. (Did I say we’ve been married almost 30 years?)
The key to being comfortable is in the “we” for us. Is it perfect? No. But because the subject of hearing loss is comfortable for us, it’s not the elephant in the room and together we can have better communication outcomes for the next 30 years. Well at least when it comes to hearing loss.
In the end…
The more we know, the more we can successfully manage communication situations.. Have those talks with your hearing partner! There will always be new situations that throw us off. Talking through those rough spots together will smooth out the process in the future. Explore accommodation options together. The more both partners know about accommodations, the easier it will be to manage situations.
Finding others with hearing loss is a great way to trade ideas, tips, tricks, technology and so on. It’s also wonderful to have friends with hearing loss to compare notes. There are 48 million people with hearing loss out there so we are not alone. Open up about your hearing loss with someone, share your stories. Let’s make hearing loss more known and acceptable.
If something resonated with you in this post, share it with someone meaningful.
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