Setting Free Your Hearing Loss Emotions

Most people, upon getting the news that they have hearing loss, don’t receive the diagnosis as if it were nothing. “Oh, I’ve got hearing loss? Alrighty then, thanks a lot for telling me.” Maybe some people take the news calmly, both inwardly and outwardly, but if we could read the  thoughts of most people, we’d see something more along the lines of:

“OMG! Tell me this is a MISTAKE! I’m too young! OMG! People are going to look at me funny; they’ll think I’m old, disabled, a wash-up, incompetent. OMG! No way! I am NOT doing this hearing loss thing! Are you sure it’s not wax? Hearing aids look like crap!

This might go on for weeks and months, with few external clues that the person is going through hearing loss hell. Maybe he or she doesn’t always wear their hearing aids. They become quieter, with a perpetual frown plastered on their face. They may not join in conversations or activities as much as they used to. 

It can be difficult to express the emotions of hearing loss, even for people like me who’ve had it for a long time. Whether it’s speaking up about a challenging listening environment or sitting down with our partners and letting it all gush – it’s just not easy, even if we are normally open about other issues.

Why is that?

There are a number of reasons, according to psychologist John M. Grohol, Psy.D., in his online article 10 Reasons You Can’t Say How You Feel. Although the article doesn’t refer to any specific disability, I have experienced all of these barriers as a person with hearing loss. Dr. Grosol mentions fear of conflict, wanting to be seen as capable of handling problems, our desire not to be seen as less than perfect (i.e., not disabled), trying to punish others with the silent treatment, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, and expecting the people who love us to be mindreaders, to know what we’re going through and what we need. Dr. Grohol goes on to say that learning why we have trouble in telling others how we feel, is a big step towards changing our behavior.

From experience, I know that when people first enter the world of hearing loss, it can be a scary place, a whole new world that doesn’t come with a manual. Information on hearing loss is not easy to digest when emotions are raging. People who have always heard well may not have the words to describe what they are now feeling. Change takes time. Time to learn and adapt to new rules, especially in the way we receive and understand the spoken word. And what many people don’t realize, is that we still have the same right to participate and be involved.

By learning as much as we can about our particular type of hearing loss and the ways it will affect different aspects of our life, we can explain our needs to other people. But if the emotions of hearing loss are too overwhelming for you to articulate (and you would not be alone in that), try using someone else’s words, those of the people who have faced this challenge before you. The internet is full of forums and sites where people share their hearing loss thoughts, their rage, their frustration, and their joy in finding some answers. Copy them – use their words and their ideas. There are many books about dealing with hearing loss, including my own, The Way I Hear It and those by my friend Katherine Boulton. We’ve been there and done that; we would be honored if you considered trying what worked for us. 

Even better, try writing down the feelings to which you can’t put a voice. Just let ‘er rip – and write down all the rage and grief and anger that you feel. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but you may realize that someone in your life does need to read it, you can decide whether to show them the raw draft or a cleaned-up version.

I care about how hearing loss affects your life, because other people cared about me whenever I’ve suffered hearing-related emotional pain. However you find your way through – whether it’s reading, writing, or speaking with others about your feelings – by setting free those inner, corrosive emotions, you will start dealing better with your hearing loss life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

3 Comments

  1. Gael, as usual you hit the nail right on the head. I have had hearing loss most of my life. As a result I became a pretty skilled lipreader (and context deriver, blank filler inner……) I also have myriad of adaptive listening “tools” in my kit bag to supplement my technological gizmos. So I get along fairly well considering the level of my hearing loss.
    But it is hearing loss and it is a royal pain and even if it is not new “news” there are moments…..
    What really hits me in the solar plexis is well meaning friends who think they are giving me a compliment when they remark that it is “almost like you don’t have hearing loss at all.” So of course they do not feel any need to accommodate because my hearing loss is not a “big deal” (to THEM). Or frenemies who intimate that I am only “pretending” I have hearing loss and am choosing to “ignore” them sometimes when they are turned away or the room is noisy with many voices. (Oh Yeah sure I have “normal hearing” THAT is why I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on hearing aids, amplified phones, ALD’s etc. etc.) I tell the friends that if they could only peek inside my head and see the mind marathons I run just to keep up with a flowing conversation they would understand why I go home EXHAUSTED after a meeting or a visit and seek silence and solitude to recharge. I tell them: imagine having to “walk” around the block on your knees. Sure, you can DO it, but will you tell me afterwards the “stroll” was “not a big deal” and even a pure delight? As for the “frenemies”, I can’t be bothered to waste my energy. Unless they are an employer who needs a bit of EEOC enlightenment (did happen), they are not worth my time. I have a happy life with love and fun and joy in it. But hearing loss does pinch sometimes. And it is perfectly okay to be p*ssed about it.

  2. Thanks for this excellent article Gael, and your suggestions are spot one. Keeping things inside isn’t the way to go; people with hearing loss need to feel, understand and share their emotions, which is the first step on the journey to obtaining the supports needed to deal with their hearing loss. Bye for now!

  3. Love what you say and cabin truly relate to all of this.

    Sad, because there is an ad for NANO hearing aids on your page…makes me so sad, because, as Dr Cliff Olson says, this brand of hearing aids, in really lousy.

    Why do you have them support your page?

    I’m disappointed.

    Sorry.

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