Accessibility Accommodations Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss Vulnerability

Hearing Loss: Challenge Accepted

With hearing loss, communication is a daily challenge. There are obstacles galore: mumblers, fast talkers, people who talk from other rooms, lack of captioning, assistive listening that isn’t maintained at venues and so much more. Getting accommodated, personal or public, can be a battle. Like all battles, we win some and we lose some. With learning resilience strategies, we begin to win more than we lose. Let’s face it, losing is part of nature. We cannot win them all. However, we can take the battles we lose and learn from them so we can do better next time. 

When you lose the battle, do you give up? Maybe you tried 2 or 3 times and felt like you got nowhere, then gave up. Did you try different ways or the same way? Resilience is taking the ‘failure’ (we don’t like that word) and learning from it. Don’t accept defeat, push yourself. Growth happens with challenges and perseverance pays off. 

Guest writer: Gloria Pelletier, M.S.W, L.I.S.A.C

Black background with a glowing green swirl at the bottom.
White text is a quote from Thomas Edison. I have not failed. I found 10,000 ways it didn't work.
Text in arch: Trial & Error
Image bottom right: Green hearing loss live logo of 3 green leaves.
Text: @hearinglosslive
Try Again & Maybe Again

Chelle: Does hearing loss make me inadequate? Absolutely not. Usually it’s the lack of accessibility that creates an inadequate situation. Given the proper accommodations, I can accomplish just about anything I want. The trick is getting the accommodations. In the beginning, I probably lost more battles than I won. It was trial and error until I found what worked for me. There’s so many options with strategies and tools and so many suggestions from the Hard of Hearing (HoH) community. There is no one right way. One size doesn’t fit all.  

When faced with a ‘fail’ (I’m not a failure), I have my pity party. I rant and whine first with myself. I earned that! It was a tough situation. We are hardest on ourselves so self compassion is a must. It’s okay not to be okay. My timeline for that can be 12 hours to a few days. This is different for everyone. 

Using Perseverance

When I’ve calmed down, I’ll evaluate the situation to the best of my ability. How could I have done it differently? Is it worth my energy to enter this challenge, pushing myself out of my comfort zone? (Most of the time, that’s a yes.) If I find my own way around the obstacle I’ll plot a new course. If I’m unsure of my path, I’ll take it to my HoH community members to hash it out. After getting advice from them, I’ll think about the options and choose the one that works best for me and take the next course of action.

Maybe that didn’t work either so time to re-evaluate. Is this still worth my energy? (Most of the time, yes.) What’s another workaround for this particular challenge? What’s another tool or strategy I can use? Then I try again. Most of the time I break through here but occasionally, it doesn’t work. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Facing challenges is not comfortable but for me it’s necessary to get the life I want. They say our growth comes from working our way through our obstacles. It’s not fun but it was necessary. Sometimes I pushed myself just a little bit and sometimes I pushed myself harder.  Getting CART/live captioning for an event for the first time was pushing myself in a big way. I had to work to push against their ‘no’ to give myself the right for equal access. (Why do we feel so guilty for that?)

An easier challenge was creating a new rule at home; no talking from another room. Though I can hear your voice, I can’t understand what you say. Whoever starts talking has to go to the other person. This includes me. Though my husband is hearing and can understand me from another room, what if he has a reply? This obstacle takes repetition. At any given time, one of us will have a fail. Oops! We don’t beat ourselves up for this, or each other. It happens. With practice it becomes a habit to follow the rule but it doesn’t mean we’re perfect. 

Resilience trying again and again until we get it right. Resilience is gaining knowledge from past experiences. Trial and error gave me more tools and taught me options. I have a whole toolbox full of strategies now thanks to experience. Pushing yourself is worth it in the end. 

  • FEAR- First attempt at learning ( A.P.J. Abdul Kalam)
  • FEAR – False evidence appearing real (Al-Anon)
  • Fear quote: “We have nothing to fear except fear itself,’ originated with Montaigne in the sixteenth century.

“Fear is a primal response to a threat. It is highly individualized in its manifestation. It is contextual in response. “When our “thinking” brain gives feedback to our “emotional” brain and we perceive ourselves as being in a safe space, we can then quickly shift the way we experience that high arousal state, going from one of fear to one of enjoyment or excitement.” What Happens in the Brain When We Feel Fear | Science| Smithsonian Magazine

The Emotional State of Fear

Gloria: The emotional state of fear has been studied for centuries by various individuals. When we place the emotional response of fear into hearing loss, it becomes a biological response to a perceived threat. I didn’t understand that concept for a long time. I knew I was anxious and fearful of new settings where I would have difficulty hearing. What I didn’t understand is that this is a NORMAL response to hearing loss. Once I understood that feeling anxious and fearful was about feeling threatened by my own hearing loss, I was able to look at a situation more objectively.  

For example, I have been training my student in how to effectively communicate with people who have hearing loss. The other day, I was concentrating on an article on my computer and describing what I was reading out loud thinking she was right behind me. I looked around and she wasn’t in the room. I looked at my dog for cues. He was peaceful so I figured she would show up sooner or later. (He is my hearing dog.) When she re-entered the room I looked up from my computer. She seemed upset. She said, “ I could hear you talking to me. I had told you I was going to another room.”  

Mistakes Happen

My response was laughter. I told her that would happen often with a hearing loss person. My student was horrified and apologized for making a basic mistake, not facing me when she spoke to me. I laughed harder. (Keeping a sense of humor is a resilience strategy.) There was no mistake and nothing to fear, just plain old communication error. I let her know that Chelle and I do that all the time. Since we are around hearing people most of the time, we too slip up. It takes time to adjust to a new norm when we are together. My student feared she offended me. There was no offense, no grand mistake. It was an honest communication error made by hundreds of thousands of people a day. Context is an important part of experiencing fear.  

Facing Fear

In March, Chelle and I led a seminar at the National Association of Social Workers conference for the Arizona chapter. Leading that workshop scared me. Chelle looked comfortable and at ease.  FEAR – False evidence appearing real (Al-Anon). I find it terrifying, she finds it renewing. We have nearly the same hearing loss but our experiences are so different. That poses the question: “Are giving seminars a fearful event?” Depends!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chelle note: This is not completely true though I’m glad I appear at ease! I usually spend the first 15 minutes pushing through nervousness. After that, I usually find my flow and enjoy it.

Georgia O’Keefe (southwestern painter) states “‘I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”  That is my mantra everyday. I fear making mistakes, not hearing a danger signal, not being aware of my surroundings … not , not, not…..  Now I am more fearful of NOT experiencing the world around me.  

Learning Experiences

Black background with a glowing green swish at the top. 
White text: Find workarounds to live your life! There's a variety of tools and strategies for hearing loss. 
Green hearing loss live logo at the bottom with @hearinglosslive

Once I understood my own hearing loss, had tools to understand circumstances, had other role models who successfully transitioned their hearing loss, learned lip reading, received really good hearing aids, learned to have receptive language again I was ready to go out and experience the world again. I had tools to be successful.  I was not longer terrified of the world around me or of failing to understand it. It became an experience to learn, not a failure to succeed. 

Be scared and do it anyway.

Take that first step and see where it leads you. It does not have to be a big step. Build your experiences, one after another until you too have several tools and strategies in your toolbox. Start working on your growth mindset.

Learn More with Hearing Loss LIVE!
  • We started 2024 with how to build your confidence with hearing loss. It turns out that building your confidence starts with making goals. In our PDF workbook, we list several ideas for goals with hearing loss. It also comes with our exclusive podcast on Confidence. You can get our “What We Learned: Confidence podcast for free, right now.
  • Here’s a 7 ½ minute Tedx Talk on How to Fail Successfully by Katherine Morrissette.
  • Here’s another podcast hosted by the American Psychological Association titled, How to Fail Successfully with author Amy Edmondson and Samuel West, both PhDs. Amy, a Harvard Business School professor, wrote “The Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well”. Samuel, an organizational psychologist, founded the Museum of Failure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *