How Can I Cope With My Hearing Loss?
The question of ‘how do I cope with hearing loss?’ is an interesting one. The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘cope’ as to deal effectively with something difficult.¹ Learning to live well and continue to do the things you want to do with hearing loss is a challenge that takes work and is an ongoing process.
My first recommendation to learning to cope with a hearing loss is consult an audiologist if you have not already. There likely are many options for mediating hearing loss and that is the place to start. Ensure you have a hearing device that is appropriately fit for your hearing loss and are aware of any additional pieces of technology that may be beneficial in your day-to-day life.
There are numerous options for listening to music, improving speech understanding in a noisy environment, hearing well over the phone, being safe in your home, and addressing any specific work or recreational needs. These options are constantly changing and improving which is why it is best to consult with an expert in this area to discuss what would be best for you.
Part two of this discussion is addressing the emotional aspects of living with a hearing loss. Most individuals who have a newly acquired hearing loss have to go through a grieving process just like any other type of loss, disease, or disorder. The Kubler-Ross five stages of grief model are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.² When someone is in the initial phases of grief, they often deny the hearing loss exists or blame communication difficulties on others.
This may sound like “She speaks to quietly”, “She never moves his lips when he’s talking”, “Everybody mumbles these days”. In these stages of mourning, a person may become withdrawn, express anger, or may even show signs of depression.¹ This is a normal part of the grieving process but the hope and goal is that these stages are brief and allow the individual to move towards acceptance of their hearing loss and seeking out information and options.
Outside of seeking out guidance from a hearing professional, a significant part of living well with a hearing loss is becoming a good self-advocate and creating a good support system. A critical aspect of this process is being open with family members, friends, co-workers, anyone you come in contact with about your hearing loss and what they can do to help with communication. Many people don’t know how to best communicate with someone who has a hearing loss (for example slow down, face me when you’re speaking, get my attention first, don’t yell) but are willing to modify their actions and communication after being informed and have heard frequent reminds.
Understand that most family members and communication partners may not know or understand the physical, psychological, and emotional impact of having a hearing loss. It may require patience and multiple honest conversations and education to get there.³ Regular, open conversations with those around you is critical for increased understanding about your hearing loss and how to work together to make communication a positive and successful experience for both of you.
Another excellent option is to seek out a local support group to meet and talk with others who have gone through the same experience. This is often something a hearing professional can guide you to or the national organization Hearing Loss Association of America has many local chapters across the country and may be a good place to start.