I frequently write about Doug, aka the Hearing Husband, because he’s the most important relationship in my life, the person I spend the most time with. He is both my major support team and the leader of the opposition.
I’m sure this is typical for most intimate relationships, many of which must deal with one or both people living with a disability. In ours, it’s my profound hearing loss. (He also has a profound listening problem, but that’s another story.)
Ten years ago, I wrote an article, What the Hearing Husband Really Thinks. The initial interview didn’t go so well, showcasing that this is a sensitive issue. And that remains ture today because hearing loss affects communication which is the cornerstone of any relationship.
So, a decade later, here’s an edited version of the original article.
“You want me to WHAT?” he asked.
I tried again. “For this week’s blog, I would like you to answer some questions about what it’s really like being married to a woman with hearing loss.”
He thinks a moment. “No.”
“Because my gut tells me this won’t go well. When people say what they really think, shit can hit the fan.”
“The fact you just said that tells me there are issues that need to be aired. C’mon, it will be fun – we’ve talked about this stuff before.”
“No. Write about something else.”
“OK, what if I promise, that no matter what you say, I won’t punch you in the face or move to separate beds.”
He sighs, which is as close to a ‘yes’ as I’m going to get.
“OK, thanks honey. Here’s a list of questions that you can think about and then give me the answers on paper. That way you won’t have to look me in the eye when you say stuff you think might upset me. Which it won’t, I promise.”
Before heading off with the questions, the Hearing Husband looks at me as if for the last time – as if our relationship is about to take a sharp turn over a road of hot coals or cold thumbtacks.
When you first met me, did my hearing loss give you any concerns about going forward with our relationship? (Give examples and don’t mention that we worked together.)
On the contrary, that was part of who you were. I thought that someone who had such a fun personality and did well in spite of her hearing loss was going to handle life’s other challenges too, and therefore be a great partner going forward. I was right! But I can imagine that it would be hard for couples when hearing loss occurs later in their relationship.
You proposed to me when I wasn’t quite awake and didn’t have my hearing aids in. Did you:
a. Plan this as a practice round, hoping that I wouldn’t open my eyes when I did?
b. Forget that I was hard of hearing?
c. Hope that I wouldn’t speechread you correctly and would answer ‘no’, thereby letting you off the hook?
None of those quite fit. You’re an excellent speechreader. I’d wanted to ask you the night before and I was running out of opportunities and nerve. I remember looking at you for 15 minutes or so, saying it over and over; it was a relief when you finally opened your eyes and could see what I was saying!
What are the major challenges in this relationship with hearing loss?
Losing sight of the puck when the captioning covers it during a TV hockey game. (And this is not a minor thing, I love watching hockey!) Truthfully, the biggest challenge is making sure our time with friends and family is accessible for you, because of your great love for conversation. Sometimes I just leave it up too much to you, to ensure the environment is right.[Me: “C’mon, how about when I get huffy based on what I thought I heard you say?”
Him: “Minor stuff.”]
After 25 years, would you say that you are more, or less, patient with my hearing loss?
More patient. 25 years mellows you a lot.
How would you rate yourself as a hearing partner? Give examples.
This question is a setup! I will say only that how you score me is what counts. We’re still together after 25 years – you want more backup than that?
If you could change anything about our relationship with hearing loss, what would it be?
Not a thing about you, but I get frustrated with myself when I forget to face you or walk away while talking. And when you get visibly irritated when I repeat something while over-enunciating.
Any additional comments?
I love you – ok, are we done?
What was he worried about? Hearing loss touches every family differently; some couples crack under the strain, but we’re lucky because the Hearing Loss Woman and the Hearing Husband are only two of the names we go by….