Grumpy About Hearing Loss? Get Over It

Does any of this sound familiar?

This hearing loss thing’s the pits. 

I can’t enjoy a decent meal in a restaurant because it’s too noisy. 

Hearing technology took a chunk out of my money, so you’d think that those guys would make ‘em work better.

Family dinners are a noise-fest, everybody trying to out-loud the next guy – while I’m left out of the conversation. Damn near grabbed the turkey and went to my room for some peaceful eating.

People mumble. When I tell them to speak clearer, they roll their eyes and then repeat it slowly, drawing out the words like I’m an idiot.

Sometimes they don’t even repeat, just flip me their hand as if I’m not worth the time. 

This hearing loss thing’s the pits.

Or, in this case, a pity-party.  But grumpiness is normal in the adjustment to hearing loss, according to the five stages of grief noted by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And if you don’t think you’re grieving, think again. Almost no one receives the diagnosis of hearing loss with a whoop and a holler: “Oh fabulous, at last! I thought this day would never come!” 

No, most of us greet the news with silent swearing, a droop of the shoulders, even tears in the eye. But not with surprise. Most people have suspected their hearing loss for a long time, secret struggling, not wanting to admit it, especially to the people in our lives who’ve already figured it out. “Oh for pete’s sake, why don’t you see someone about your hearing loss, you’re driving me nuts.”  Tactful, supportive stuff like that.

It’s natural to grumble  and feel sorry for ourselves—even to blame others for making our situation worse: the person who stubbornly resists facing us when speaking, or the manufacturer whose hearing aid doesn’t seem to deliver a bang for the buck, or the restaurant owner who plays loud music deliberately to tick us off while pleasing all the other diners. Learning to live well with hearing loss is a process. For most, there is no quick fix, curative tonic, or hands-on healing that make our condition disappear with a poof!

But unless you simply like being grumpy, there comes a time when you need to—how to put this gently?—get over yourself.  Hearing loss might be permanent, but poor communication doesn’t have to be. Most of us just need some help to claw our way back to being a reasonably pleasant member of the human race. We can get this help from hearing care professionals, our family and friends, and other people with hearing loss, who know what they’re talking about because they’ve been walking in our shoes. By adopting a new operating system—a fine blend of attitude, knowledge and technology—we will reconnect more positively, especially with our nearest and dearest who are also affected by our hearing loss in a big way, although differently.

Do it. Reach out. Ask your hearing care professional for resources to help you in everyday life. And if the only suggestion you get is to buy additional technology from the hearing aid manufacturer, consider finding another professional. You need information to help you become more assertive having your needs met and to conduct more effective, less stressful conversations. There’s not an ounce of shame in hearing loss—or in asking for help.

Yes, this hearing loss thing is the pits. But just as mountains are there to climb, pits are there to climb out of.

pit (2)

Photo:  Kevin W. Harris 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

8 Comments

  1. There are a lot of people with hearing loss. Me being one of them. My Problem is not having money to buy hearing aids. All the companies want money. So is there a hearing association or government agency that will help people with no money to buy them or do we just continue not hearing. If anyone can help me with the correct agency I will be forever grateful

    1. Most state public aids will help, but serif your state has a department of rehabilitation services. Ask your audiologist if they know of any services that will help.

  2. I always appreciate your well-written posts, Gael. Among the best written there are online.

    Hearing loss IS dehumanizing, in the sense that it constricts the essence of being human–our being in communion with one another. Therefore, for those with hearing loss, it is futile to expect anything less than a daily struggle with this challenge. Those with hearing loss are under a stress few understand, although it seems pretentious to say so.

    The problem lies in resisting this unfortunate truth, and therefore succumbing to grousing, being downcast, etc..
    Per, Epictetus: External troubles are not what truly hinder us; rather, it is our attitudes and responses to those troubles that help or hurt us.
    We choose how we will respond.
    In this wisdom is hope and overcoming. The privilege of hearing loss is that it requires sincere practice of this wisdom. More than the hearing world can ever understand.

    We should always be quick to realize that when we see a peer engaged positively in life, despite their hearing loss, we are looking at a hero. Truly.
    When we see someone defeated and protesting, they should not be shamed. Rather, they need to be brought into awareness and assured of their strength and power to choose.

  3. I try not to grumpy, but hearing is a key part of my profession. Even with my hearing aids I now understand less than half of what people are saying. Thanks for the reminder that I am not alone. I will keep trying to do my best.

  4. I agree with this statement: There’s not an ounce of shame in hearing loss

    It’s up to us to change the stigma and stand up for our rights. No one else will do it for you. As long as we keep reminding people out there that we deserve equal access and opportunities, then more doors will open for us.

  5. I think most people are not aware of how to deal with their hearing loss. Sitting against the wall away from the bar and facing the wait staff helps in a noisy restaurant. Having a hearing aid that lowers the background noise is a boon. You can turn up the volume with that program. Buying the smallest hearing aid with those tiny batteries is not recommended for seniors with arthritic fingers. Having a personal assistive listening device also helps during family gatherings. People want to hide their disability and that is sad because most hearing people already know we cannot hear well. On vacation I take my personal assistive listening device with a head set in case the hearing aids break down during my travels. Join the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) for information on how to get along with your hearing loss. http://www.hearingloss.org

    1. Spot on Hermine Wiley, in a noisy environment, cycle through your programs to find the best listening experience. Sometines it;s the M.T program, sometimes it’s the bluetooth program or a noise reduction program. Attitude and behavior modification are key!

  6. Yup. This was me. Well said, Gael.

    “No, most of us greeet the news with silent swearing, a droop of the shoulders, even tears in the eye.”

    Spot on.

    Dee

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