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.

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