So, another year starts, a new year of possibilities. Events will happen that we didn’t expect or want – but we also have the power to reshape the flow of our daily lives.
Our life with hearing loss, for example.
I’ve had progressive hearing loss since birth, starting as mild and steadily worsening to where I am now deaf without my assistive devices. But it wasn’t until age 40 that I started to realize the powerful and pervasive impact of my profound hearing loss on my life, including my mental health. And, in a recent, profound moment, after almost 30 years of working in the hearing loss advocacy field, I finally recognized the trauma that I experienced as a sensitive teenager and young adult because of my hearing loss. Realizing this, even after all these years, has made a positive difference in my self-regard. It was a quiet aha moment. I’m starting this new year of living with hearing loss, with a better understanding of myself.
No matter where we are on our hearing loss journeys – regardless of how long we’ve had it, or how severe it is, or how brutally it challenges us in our daily lives – we can take steps to make it easier to live with.
Take a look, or take a deep dive, into your attitudes. Are you still in the why me zone? Deep down, do you feel you’re lesser than because of your hearing loss? Do you feel victimized when other people don’t recognize your needs in the moment? If the answer is yes, or even just a little bit, with a bit of effort you can shift those mindsets to something more satisfying. You can say I deserve to hear and be heard. I can help others to help me. We can communicate together.
Address your communication soft spots. Do you have difficulty in self identifying? Or articulating your needs? If you recognize these as problem areas, you can focus on learning how to do them better, with a little practice, for noticeable results.
Talk to your loved ones about the impact of hearing loss on your relationships. If you experience any friction because of hearing loss, it helps to realize that it’s natural. Communication can be a complicated, two-way street for everyone, even without hearing loss. The good news is that we all have responsibilities in making communication work! Hearing loss is not a fault and it’s not your burden to carry alone. Your loved ones and friends can also learn and commit to being better communicators.
- Make facing each other the rule. Practice! Communication flows better when you’re looking and reading each other’s face.
- Have your loved ones visit the audiologist with you. It might clear up any misunderstandings and help both (or all) of you move forward.
- Give them some reading material and ask them to please, read this. Hearing loss blogs such as this one, or books on hearing loss (I can recommend a good one or two!) will clarify the reality of a condition that isn’t easy to describe.
Try something new in technology. It’s almost mind-blowing to experience what assistive devices and apps can do in helpling us hear and understand, especially for those of us who grew up before the technical boom. Try a new speech to text app; did you know that your smartphone has one already built in? I use Live Captions on my iPhone and love it.
Reach out to another person with hearing loss. If you know someone who also uses hearing aids, start a conversation about it. It’s not only a chance to commiserate, but to learn some new tips and tricks.
Be open to change. Starting this day, week or month in 2024, take some new steps on a hearing loss journey that is less stressful, a little smoother, and more satisfying.