Communication Access Communication Practices Communication with Family Connections Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Personal advocacy Self Advocacy Setting limits

Communication & Boundaries

Communication is a chore in general. Add hearing loss and it’s 10 times more challenging. At Hearing Loss LIVE!, we say this all the time in regards to communication: We cannot do our part, if others don’t do their part. The following 3 guidelines are for our hearing communication partners – this is their part of the communication equation:

  1. Get the hard of hearing person’s attention first, before talking.
  2. Face that person while talking the whole time. The minute you turn away, sound starts to fade a bit. We need sound coming right to us. Also, seeing is hearing. We use facial expressions, body language and minor lipreading to help interpret the spoken language. 
  3. Be within 6 feet because the closer you are the better the sound quality. Again, seeing is hearing. 

Most of us hear enough to know people are talking, which makes hearing loss so darn confusing. We hear your voice but every conversation is a puzzle for us. Many of us are missing certain frequencies in speech, as in we don’t hear some  consonants. Part of the puzzle is filling in the consonant gaps with what we know of the topic. When you face us, the sound comes straight to us and we can use facial expressions and body language to fill more pieces of the puzzle. Number 1 and 2 are easier when you’re within 6 feet. 

Those 3 rules should be boundaries for all hard of hearing people. It doesn’t matter if we’re wearing hearing aids, cochlear implants or nothing. Those 3 rules are how we hear/understand.   The general population does not understand hearing loss so it’s up to us to let others know what works best for us. Be proactive. The 3 golden rules set your stage for better communication.

Share this meme with family, friends and coworkers.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” Brene Brown

Making Your Boundaries Count

Julia: When we say we need to set boundaries, everyone squirms in their seats. They roll their eyes. There’s a few big sighs. Boundaries feel like a difficult thing but it’s okay to respect yourself. 

Actually, we use boundaries everyday, we just don’t realize it.

  • Do you use boundaries with co-workers?
  • How about your boundaries with your children?
  • What are your boundaries with your spouse?
  • Think about your extended family, what boundaries do you have with them?
  • Do these boundaries involve communication?
  • Have you changed boundaries based on the situation, the person, the event or in general, over time?

Sit down with these questions, with pen and paper, and think about it. 

Boundaries are a part of our everyday life. We don’t have the same boundaries for our five-year-old as we do when they hit their teenage years. Boundaries for your coworker, Jan, may look different than your coworker Jill.

How many times have you adapted, changed, and/or discussed communication boundaries that worked best for all parties? The hearing person and the one with hearing loss?

Talk to Your Hearing Partner About Communication

Why would you not want to sit down and figure out the role hearing loss plays in communication? To me, it only makes sense that hard of hearing communication boundaries need to be talked about, possibly changed and worked on. At home, with friends and at your place of work.

Work together. Having clear boundaries helps every member know what’s expected. In the future, you may need to change some communication boundaries because circumstances change. Other boundaries will stay the same. Don’t squirm in your seat and say you can’t do it because hearing loss has entered the equation. Y’all got this! Hearing partners join in, encourage growth and change. 

Personal Bill of Rights

Chelle: Edmund J Bourne created the Personal Bill of Rights in his Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. During a tough period in my life, I read this list of rights to myself often. It reminded me that I’m a valuable person and deserve some respect and happiness too.

Then I started thinking there should be a personal bill of rights for those with hearing loss too. ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) has something similar on their website which was a good start, yet it needed some tweaking from the consumer perspective.  Here’s a few of the things we came up with…

  • I have the right to express my communication needs. 
  • I have the right to change my accommodations as needed.
  • I have the right to take hearing breaks.

(You can receive the full list by buying us one cup of coffee on our Buy Me a Coffee site.)

What Communication Boundaries Look Like

We often don’t want to be a bother to other people so we keep quiet on our communication needs. (I think we have our fair share of anxiety with communication.) Using the Personal Bill of Rights and our Personal Communication Bill of Rights might look like this:

  • If I’m at a friend’s house and they want me to watch a movie, or show, with them: “I need captions on. It’s the only way I can enjoy the movie also.” Then I show them how to turn them on and off. 
  • Assistive listening devices worked great for several years. However, when my hearing took another dive so my communication needs changed. I now need captions to enjoy events like live theater/the lecture/the class, so I can participate fully. Both accommodations are needed. I like to hear what I can and read captions too. 
  • When my husband wants to go out in the evening: “I am too tired to go out tonight. All my energy is spent. I need a hearing break so I’m going to stay home tonight. It’s ok with me if you go out tonight without me.”

Drawing my communication boundaries helps me at work, at home and while out in public. It’s not always easy and sometimes it takes a few tries to find what works best for me. Then I need to let others know. If I don’t let people know how best to talk to me, they are going to make assumptions. (See our blog on Collateral Damage.) With all the misconceptions out there, the assumptions are bound to be wrong. 

Green lawn in the foreground, a wood fence with blue sky. There ae green and yellow leaves hanging down from the top. Quote says: Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously, by Prentiss Hemphill
Communication is a Basic Human Need

Gloria: Communication is a basic human need to connect.  We connect through our communication whether that be voice, text, captions, sign language, social media or email. We are establishing our identity, communicating our needs and sometimes wants.

Material Boundaries

When we are little,  playing with our toys, and when your sibling takes your toy you might say, “No!”  That is our start of knowing when to set boundaries.  It begins early in our lives.  I never told my children they had to share.  I asked them if they wanted to share.  Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes it was no.  

Emotional Boundaries

Knowing ourselves and our needs first helps us to clearly communicate our choices. Respecting ourselves is essential for us to know what we need at any given time. Sometimes we have to set limits for many reasons and those limits can change due to fatigue, time, relationships, physical, and emotional needs. It is a way to  protect our energy, to survive in the turmoil of our everyday lives.  

When I was in China, my interpreter told me I was too nice and people would take advantage of me. I told her that wouldn’t happen because I knew myself, what I wanted to give and what I don’t want to give. I could be polite but recognize my own needs and respect them. No one can take from you what you don’t want to give. That was easy to do in a foreign environment. It’s not so easy to do within relationships of importance to us.

More Examples of Communication Boundaries

Communication boundaries in the HOH world look different but in reality it is the same concept. It is so easy to violate someone’s boundaries when you don’t understand their needs. First we have to know ourselves well enough to communicate that to others. Examples:

  • “I would love to have you come over today but I am exhausted from working late last night.  I would welcome lunch in a couple of days.” 
  • “It’s not funny when you make fun of me with the hand behind the ear gesture indicating hearing loss.” 
  • “ Be aware that I will take a little longer to communicate with you because I am determining if I heard you correctly and deciding how to respond.” 
  • “Yes, I communicate with sign language, CART and lipreading. I really want to understand.” 
  • In a large meeting: “Sir, I would appreciate it if you clip my microphone on your shirt so I can hear you.  I really want to understand your presentation.”  

These statements are an affirmation of our needs set as an expectation that they will be met. We require some accommodating on your part so I can understand what you are communicating. I respect you enough to find ways to communicate in a different manner that allows us to have a conversation. 

Different Strategies for Communication

In this manner we can set boundaries. In this way, communication can happen to establish relationships that will enrich us. The expectation is that our needs will be met because they are reasonable and not capricious. I am not making this up just to make you uncomfortable. They are valid requests. Just as you have needs and expectations that I will become aware of, we develop a relationship of kindness, caring and respect.  It’s always a give and take. I do not require more for my communication needs because I have hearing loss, I need “different” strategies in order to give my full attention to you. 

At times, I will be able to assess an individual’s personality by how accommodating they are to my communication needs. If a person is not able to adjust, I realize that he/she may have some difficulty with communication. I will communicate through email or text. I don’t judge their ability, I accommodate them. Just as I need some adjustments, so do they.  I respect them and myself at the same time.

Communication strategies and boundaries can be fun and exciting to everyone when applied with compassion and caring. Difference is not a negative, it is an opportunity to learn new skills and enrich your life.  Let’s have fun together.

Finding Your Own Boundaries

Communication boundaries will look a little different for everyone as we all have our preferences. We are all similar but also a little different. Explore. Experiment. Talk to others who have hearing loss. Then use what works for you and go with it…until your needs change or you find something else that works better. It’s up to us to figure out what works. If we don’t manage our hearing loss, someone else will. 

“Boundary setting helps you prioritize your needs over other people’s wants.” Lauren Kenson, health coach

Join our Let’s Talk Tuesday workshop.

We’re online and live March 7th at 6:00 PM Mountain time (adjust for your time zone). Join Julia, Gloria and Chelle to discuss Communication & Boundaries, we all learn from each other!

It’s online via Zoom with CART/live captions. There is no charge for the workshop. Register on our Events page.

Did you like this blog? See our other posts with Gloria:

Emotions, Psychological Stress Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss

Grief For A Little Drop in Hearing

by Chelle Wyatt

Last month I shared my most recent experience getting a hearing test, Hearing Tests: Mixed Emotions. The red & blue lines on my audiogram have mingled together in the past but this time, my red line took a step away from the blue one. My word discrimination went from 60% to 40% in that ear, with amplification. The audiologist said, “It’s only a little loss.” True, it’s only a step down but I certainly feel the grief for that little bit of hearing loss.

Among the hard of hearing (HoH) tribe we all fear hearing tests. When I told people I was going for my hearing test appointment, my HoHs checked on me before I went in and wished me luck. They asked me to touch base with them after because they know every little drop in hearing counts. We collectively hold our breath until we get results. They will congratulate me if there’s no change and they sympathize if there is a change. 

A Small Drop in Hearing Explains Big Differences

When the audiologist told me it was just a small drop, it wasn’t that small to me. Right away it explained a few things that have been happening. When I sleep on my left side, sounds fade away. This is not a bad thing perhaps…unless there’s some emergency.

When I’m driving and someone is talking to me from the passenger side, I can’t just listen. I lean over the center console to get closer to the passenger, stealing glances for lipreading (this is with hearing aids in). This is not safe and there’s been a few close calls while trying to “hear” passengers. This new hearing test proves casual conversation in the car is not doable. That’s grief. People like to talk. I’m going to grieve that little bit of hearing loss.

living room picture, tan recliner forefront, another chair back right and the couch to the left. Two big windows
Living room setting, my tan recliner.

In the living room, I sit off the left side of the couch in a recliner. That means my right ear points toward the couch. Not long ago, my husband accused me of tuning him out while watching TV. “I’m not, it’s just that all sound becomes background.” Looking at my current hearing test, that is an aha moment.

It adds up. I’m not shocked yet I still feel the stab of grief. It’s not a wave washing over me like the big hearing drops in the past. I’m thankful it’s not that. However, it creates a ripple in my life. It doesn’t just affect me, it affects my husband who has already confessed he misses casual conversation while watching TV.

The Tribe Understands the Grief

The HoH tribe understands this. That’s why not long after I got home, they were the first ones texting me asking for the results. They didn’t just ask me how much I lost, they wanted details. What was my word discrimination? What brand of hearing aid was suggested? Could I get colorful hearing aids? (Love that one because I will get color again.) Those in the tribe without hearing loss also checked in shortly after making sure I wasn’t knocked out of the ballpark again.

People outside the tribe say, “At least it wasn’t a big drop. Glad you’re getting new hearing aids.” The subject changes because they can’t know what it’s like until it happens to them. Maybe this is because I handle my hearing loss well these days. That doesn’t mean I don’t break down, that I don’t feel the loss. I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

The support from the tribe is comforting. It helps me to talk about it with them; the test, the brands and oh crap! Did I really forget to get my word discrimination scores?! And a copy of my audiogram?! I lost my senses… 20% more of my hearing. The following week I went back to test the hearing aids again and choose a brand. That time I made sure I had a copy of my audiogram with all the information.

Without chatting with my HoH friends, my grief might not have been understood. I greatly appreciate the tribe for this reason and more. This is why I encourage people to find other HoH friends. It helps immensely. I’m not devastated with this little drop in hearing. I’m not lost either, but there went a little more hearing… Again.

Can you hear my big sigh?

There are 48 million Americans with hearing loss. Some of us have found the tribe through community groups, however I still find many who feel alone with hearing loss. The SayWhatClub and our local HLAA chapter had my back with the last big drop in hearing 13 years ago. Without them, I would not be where I am now. I want everyone connected to that kind of energy.

Connection Suggestions

Join the Hearing Loss LIVE! monthly Let’s Talk About It chats. Every month we have a different topic. We encourage participation but together we are better.  

Try social media. There’s more than ever out there.  There’s so many ways to connect with social media; Reddit groups, Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Connect online, then attend a hearing loss convention. 

My favorite is the SayWhatClub annual convention. They were there for me in the beginning back in the late 90’s and they are still there. Their conventions are small and intimate so we get to know each other. I’ll be presenting a workshop for them this year in Vancouver Canada: Technology for Communication with Hearing Loss. More information on that soon. 


The tribe is hard of hearing, but it also includes faithful hearing partners. Let’s also be sure to include our wonderful CART providers and dedicated providers of assistive listening. It’s those who provide hearing instruments and give us all the resources and knowledge we need to be successful. (See our visit with Dr. Ingrid McBride.) It’s anyone who tries to spread awareness about hearing loss and communication needs. 

Communication with Family Connections Emotions, Psychological Stress Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Sensory Loss Vulnerability

Grief: Hearing Loss & Healing

Join our LIVE! Workshop on Grief: Hearing Loss & Healing with Gloria Pelletier on February 7th, 6:00 – 7:30 PM Mountain time online via Zoom. (Adjust for your time zone.) 

Registration is required, here is the link. This is a Let’s Talk Tuesday Workshop.

This post is written by Gloria Pelletier (M.S.W., L.C.S.W., L.I.S.A.C.) unless otherwise noted. This is the foundation for the workshop, which explores other aspects of grief.  

The ability to hear connects us to our world in many ways.  From treasured contact with friends and family to maximum performance in the workplace to physical safety.  Hearing provides deep and important connections that no other sense can replace.”  (

Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people,is a moving quote often attributed to the famed 20th-century activist and educator Helen Keller, who achieved a remarkable career championing the deaf and blind. Those with serious hearing loss often cite this quote. (AARP)

Hearing loss as a stressor in many people’s lives?

Let’s explore where hearing loss occurs in the ratings of stress in society. Below is an older chart of stress which is still the foundation of many other charts for loss.  As you can see, hearing loss rates with number 6 as a “Personal Injury or Illness” with 53 points. We could also add in number 11, with change in health of family members, which is another 44 points.  (You can add other stressors together.)   

For more info:

That is a huge amount of stress that is unchangeable. One cannot go back to hearing normal again and most likely will lose more hearing as we age.

That level of loss often creates grief. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief are well known (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Now a person has gone from multiple stressors in their lives to grief.  How did they get there?

Grief isn’t always about death.

It can be the loss of communication as we know it. The inability to communicate, the very foundation of relationships, changes our lives profoundly without warning. Meaning without our permission, sometimes without an illness, without our knowledge – our ability to communicate is permanently altered. There is a sense of loss, uncertainty, isolation, not feeling safe and other overwhelming emotions.  

One of the key functions of hearing is a response to speech, the primary way we connect and communicate, emotionally and intellectually with each other.

A discontinuation of communication: 
  • Can’t understand speech with background noise
  • Need more volume to understand
  • Requests for repeat
  • Requests to speak slowly
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of social situations, isolation
  • Uncertainty of our understanding of speech
  • Disruption of speech continuity
  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Relationship changes

Hearing Loss is more profound and far reaching than our society has recognized.  Communication is our means to our relationships and family.  Once interrupted, how do we heal?  


“…. acceptance takes many forms for different people, but it usually indicates some integration of the loss into one’s life. In this circumstance, acceptance may mean having all the negative feelings about one’s hearing loss while not letting those feelings interfere with relationships and daily life. When going through the stages of mourning, functioning may be affected over the short term, but the person usually will move toward some degree of acceptance. If they do not, they may need emotional support from either a therapist or a support group.”  Kaland, Mary and Salvatore, Kate  The Psychology of Hearing Loss | The ASHA Leader

Some tips that Hearing Loss LIVE! (HLL) has already expressed for healing:

Find your tribe.  Meaning find people with hearing loss that understand your situation and can relate to your experiences.


Discover information that helps you understand your hearing loss.

  1. Take “Living Well with Hearing Loss”, an upcoming class with Dr. Ingrid McBride AuD and Gloria Pelletier, LCSW.  
  2. Lip Reading Concepts & Lip Shapes LIVE! classes with Hearing Loss LIVE! (more info)
  3. Upcoming Seminars/Workshops geared to the mental health field for hearing loss. (Chelle Wyatt,  HLL and Gloria Pelletier, LCSW)      
  4. Hearing Loss Live Series of collaboration of topics by Gloria Pelletier, LCSW
  5. Support groups: Hearing Loss Association of America, SayWhatClub and Association of Late Deafened Adults.
  6. Know how hearing loss affects your communication, relationships and ways to mediate them. 
Role Models: 

 Find an organization or person who role models for you how to live with hearing loss and have integrated their hearing loss with their lives.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):  

Know your rights under IDEA, Section 504 and Section 505. Become informed about your disability and how to request accommodations.  Request loops in church, city hall, theaters.  Make sure you have your audiologist turn on your telecoil in hearing aids and cochlear implants. 

Vocational Rehabilitation Agency  

If you qualify, insist on equipment for communication, classes in rehabilitation for hearing loss, knowledgeable Rehabilitation Counselors.

Psychological Assistance

Insist your therapist or counselor has minimal requirements of knowledge for hearing loss and its effects on your communication and relationships.  There is no shame in asking for help in rehabilitation of your communication with family and society.  It is your right!!!


Express your feelings and emotions through any form of art. Self expression through painting, crochet/knitting, mosaics and so much more. Creation eases some of the pain of grief a.

Hearing Loss LIVE! comments…

Chelle: Since my hearing loss didn’t come from an injury or illness (that I know of), I forget it falls into the personal injury and illness category.  Living most of my life with hearing loss, I know how it affects family dynamics. After my hearing test last month, I am experiencing some grief. (I’ll have another blog for that soon.)

Julia: Hearing loss grief affects the entire family. Open the communication channel from the get go. Tell each other what your grief looks like. Healing takes time for both of you, and that’s okay. (This too is an upcoming topic.)

Other posts you may like…

If you liked this post, learn more about Hearing Loss & Collateral Damage to see how it affects family and friends. In April last year, we posted The Emotional Side of Hearing Loss which ties into grief.

Share our blog! Help us spread awareness.

Did you like our post? Check out our Buy Me a Coffee website. Find out how you can further support us and and efforts to spread awareness.

Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Hearing Technology Lipreading Personal advocacy Sensory Loss

Hearing Tests: Mixed Emotions

By Chelle Wyatt

In 30 plus years of wearing aids, I’ve never had hearing aids longer than 6 years until now. My current pair of aids are over 8 years old so this is a milestone. They might go 10 years with effort. There are minor glitches such as static on the right side until I wiggle the wire to my ear mold. They also don’t sync together, that means I have to change programs on both sides instead of one. Nothing huge but I’ve decided It’s time for new technology with more connectivity.

This involved getting a new hearing test. My last hearing test was over four years ago. I suspect there’s been some change but nothing huge. Hearing loss can be sneaky, dropping slowly therefore easily dismissed. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had a significant drop in hearing and this too is another personal record. 

New Hearing Aids

Overall, I’m excited for the opportunity to get new hearing aids.  It’s a new adventure with new technology. I’m going to love being able to tweak programs in the app more to my liking. (I’m a bit of a control freak.) My new audiologist is hard of hearing himself. I’ve heard good things about him through my local HoH friends so he comes with recommendations.

He waved me into his office for a chat before the test. Because he’s hard of hearing, he’s good about facing me while talking. I didn’t wear my hearing aids going in, what for? They are going to come out for the hearing test anyway. I let him know. He goes on with questions about my history with hearing loss. There’s a small moment of panic as I get used to his voice and how he talks. I remind myself to wait for it, a technique we teach in our Lipreading Concept class. I catch on and it gets easier.

He asks about my last hearing test 4 ½ years ago. I forward my last audiogram to his email. He looks at it and looks back at me, “I’m really surprised you are doing so well without hearing aids” I tell him, “It’s because I’ve learned to advocate for myself and I teach lipreading classes.” 

Lipreading & Self Advocacy

Hearing loss doesn’t get better, but I “hear” better than I have in years. What gives? It was me and my ability to create healthy communication boundaries using the 3 Golden Rules. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, no hearing devices…these 3 rules have to be applied for successful communication:

Hearing aids are a great tool. I’ll never be without hearing aids as long as they help me. However, hearing aids alone haven’t gotten me where I am. It’s also taken the tribe, accommodations and being proactive. 

the Hearing Test

He uses a soundproof booth, something my last audiologist didn’t do. It feels odd getting back into one. Funny thing is, I’ve been in this very booth before. My first audiologist in Utah had this office. He retired and this new AuD bought the business. Once hooked up, he starts with the beeps. I wait…and wait. I’m picking through what is tinnitus and what are real tones. Sometimes my tinnitus mimics the beeps.

Next came the word discrimination test. It’s a computer voice, no lipreading is possible. Cowboy. Hotdog. I repeat what I hear. Those words are expected from years of previous hearing tests. Then it goes into one syllable words which are harder. Because he’s hard of hearing, he has to stop the computer voice and ask me to spell what I heard. I can tell I heard wrong because I see the corner of his eyes crinkle up into a smile above his monitor. 

Hearing in Noise Test

All these years, I’ve never had a “hearing in noise” test, abreviated as HINT. It starts with multiple people talking and at some point I’m supposed to pull in a voice that sounds closest to me and repeat what I hear. Out of 3 examples, I’m only able to figure out some words on the first test. The next two tests I couldn’t pull a word from. It blew my mind. I suck at hearing without my eyes. 

Classis ski clope loss, going rom upper left corner to the lower right corner.  The red line is just below the blue line.
You can see all the sounds of speech I miss in the upper mid to right “speech bananag” in dark blue.

After the tests are all done we go over my results. In the past, my ears have stayed about equal, the red and blue lines (for right ear and left ear) mingled and crossed as they plunge down to the profound in a classic ski slope hearing loss. This time, my left ear has only dropped a tiny bit in a few frequencies. My right ear, however, has taken its leave of the blue line. Its line now stands alone below the blue line. My word discrimination is 64% in the left ear and 40% in the right ear, with the appropriate level of amplification. “It’s a small drop in hearing.”

The 20% drop of word discrimination in one ear doesn’t hit me all at once. It’s only a little loss. True enough, I’ve had bigger drops in the past. Count myself lucky??? Plus, I have already  been dealing with the hearing loss without knowing it for probably the last six months. As I sit in the office, a few pieces of the puzzle slide together with recent incidents. 

It is a loss.

He lets me try a pair of hearing aids in the office to see what I think. I wasn’t sure so we made another appointment to try other brands. As I leave, I feel the excitement of new hearing aids. It takes a day or two for me to mull over the 20% loss of word discimination in the right. A little grief starts to settle in.

To be continued.

Even though it’s “only a little loss”, it has ramifications. I feel the loss and it shows in my day to day life. I’ll explore that in another blog soon.

Past posts that might interest you…

Did you like this blog? Read more about our Lipreading classes. These classes have made a difference in my day to day communication. We shared Vulnerability with hearing loss in this blog/podcast.

Buy Us a Coffee

An easy way to support us and help us raise funds until we get our feet beneath us. (We’re getting there, thank you to our supporters!) We keep as much of content free as we can. We want everyone to access to communication. If you liked what we wrote, Buy Us a Coffee. We have new information here and new features.

Hard of Hearing Hard of Hearing Defined Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss Sensory Loss

Being Comfortable with Hearing Loss

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.

17 years into hearing loss & hearing aids, still fairly clueless about accommodations.

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

The SayWhatClub helped me a lot over the years. This is their 2022 convention picture.

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.

Julia and her husband with their son.

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. 

Julia with her family at an outdoor event.

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.

If I:

  • 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.

Want to explore more? Check out Being Proactive with Hearing Loss. It might also be a good time to read Hearing Loss and Hearing Partners.

We are crowdfunding through Buy Me a Coffee. Help us reach phase two of our business plan as we continue to expand services.