Dating with Hearing Loss: 6 Success Strategies

Dating with hearing loss can be daunting. Where do you find romance? And when do you mention your hearing issue? This is especially true now, with a global health crisis altering how we connect socially and form new relationships. What’s more, the challenges may be greater for those with adult-onset hearing loss than longtime members of the deaf community.

“For those who have been hard of hearing their entire life, it’s just one aspect of their multifaceted identity. But when adults experience hearing loss, it can feel all-consuming on the dating scene,” says hearing-loss specialist Alison Freeman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice and at California State University Northridge, who was diagnosed with moderate-severe hearing loss at age three.

Nevertheless, new love can be found if you know the ground rules and confidently advocate for yourself. Embrace these six strategies:

1. Remember, you’re still you. “Remind yourself that you are just as attractive and desirable as before hearing loss,” Freeman told Hearing Tracker. If doing so is tough at first, connect with friends and family members about the situation to gain reassurance about your finer points.

2. Be honest. So much of dating takes place online today, you may wonder how much to reveal about your hearing loss in your profile. Untruths are bound to be found out as a relationship progresses, so it makes little sense to try to hide your status. “Personally, I have found honesty to be the best approach, because the person’s response would help me see their level of compassion and their ability to learn and be open,” Freeman notes.

However, Freeman says there’s nothing wrong with waiting to bring up hearing loss until a genuine interest has been established on both sides. Whatever you decide, if initial dates are online video chats, review the accessibility options carefully. Noise reduction and live-captioning options vary by service.

3. Reach out. If navigating the nuances of a dating site for the general population seems off-putting, there are numerous sites dedicated to deaf singles. Moreover, “finding camaraderie among other people with hearing loss can be very empowering,” says Freeman, who recommends organizations such as Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) and Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). You’ll likely find friendship and, since the community you join is likely to have local chapters, you may even meet your match.

4. Pick great date places. When you are ready for a meet-up, find an optimal location. A walk in the park or a leisurely hike lets you be active as you get to know each other — and these are great options as we move through this “stay socially distant” pandemic. If indoor dining is an option, a restaurant or coffee house with carpeting and upholstered furniture is preferable to those with mostly hard surfaces, and if you can go at off-hours, it will be even quieter. Museums and botanical gardens also tend to have minimal background noise, and they offer ample conversation starters. Interested in a movie date? Don’t be afraid to voice your needs; it can reduce misunderstandings.” Tell your date: “If we see a movie, let’s see one that is captioned.” Foreign film, anyone?

5. Lighten up.  Take the pressure off yourself – and your date. “In social situations, don’t expect to understand everything, and let your partner know you don’t hold him or her responsible for making sure you ‘get it,’” Freeman says. “The more I tell someone not to worry about me—and mean it!—the less stress there is,” explains Freeman.

Humor helps, too. “The ability to laugh at ourselves is a sign of maturity,” Freeman says. So go for it: Tell a funny story about a hearing loss-related misunderstanding. Your date will no doubt offer a mortifying moment of his/her own.

6. Cue up good communication. The key to any successful relationship lies in expressing your needs and understanding those of your partner. “There’s a difference between hearing and listening,” Freeman points out. “Hearing is the physical aspect; listening requires awareness, sensitivity and frequent clarification.” If you don’t feel comfortable enough to communicate your needs to someone, that person is not for you. Move on!