If you have hearing loss, the above title might make you go, Oh, duh! What kind of person would be delighted to have hearing loss?
Actually, I can think of someone – the person who was worried they were developing dementia. Hearing loss is a much easier diagnosis to deal with, don’t you think? But once you’re over the profound relief that you’re not senile, you’re left with the fact of your hearing loss.
And maybe it’s getting worse. Maybe it’s causing problems on your job. Maybe you feel embarrassed and challenged socially. These are common but real hearing loss issues that can cause stress and unhappiness, even though we tell ourselves that we’re ‘fine’ with it. After all, we’re using our technology and we’ve learned to be assertive about having our needs met.
But sometimes it just gets us down, especially when we blame our hearing loss for other areas of our lives that aren’t going so well. “If I didn’t have hearing loss, I’d have a better relationship.” Or, “If I didn’t have hearing loss, I would HAVE a relationship.” In the past, I’ve blamed my hearing loss for all this and more. I knew I didn’t like being ‘hard of hearing’ but I didn’t realize the depth of my stress until, at the age of 40, I connected with other people with hearing loss. Man, did my life change!
In my new world, I learned how much hearing loss had affected me through the years – how I had bought into the stigma told me I was less than perfect, possibly damaged. Now I understood that having hearing loss is OK, it’s normal. I learned to regard technology as my friend. I learned that by absorbing positivity and knowledge from other people with hearing loss, I became a better, happier me. I discovered that it was natural to grieve for the good hearing I would never have. It’s also common to experience fits of frustration when communication is difficult. I learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, and that made the world of difference to me. I was proud of my new attitudes and I was happier.
But – I’m not a therapist and I’m not trying to trivialize or minimize the emotions and stresses that hearing loss puts on our lives. It’s a complex condition that affects people differently, requiring diverse solutions and supports.
I recently came across an article on WikiHow (To Do Anything) called How to Stop Being Sad, co-authored by Trudi Griffin, a licensed professional counselor. Although it wasn’t about hearing loss, Ms. Griffin’s article offers ideas that can benefit people with the hearing loss blues. One major theme is to look at our thought patterns, beliefs and habits and consider changes to help deal with our stress. These include:
Learn to stop dwelling on the negatives of hearing loss. Instead, we should learn to forgive – both ourselves and others – when communication isn’t perfect. This clears the way to more positive thinking.
Manage our stress level. ‘Easier said than done’, I know, but necessary. We need to remove ourselves from stressful situations when possible. Take time for ourselves with soothing music, quiet times, a hot bath, etc. We can alleviate stress with regular exercise, good eating habits, sufficient sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Look for the positives in our lives and focus on them – and this includes surrounding ourselves with positive people.
The biggest difference in my life came through the help I got from other people with hearing loss and from forward-thinking hearing health professionals. They demonstrated tools and attitudes that made my life better than I would ever have believed.
Some people may require additional help to help to process emotions and negative feelings, that affect our attitudes towards our personal hearing loss. There is nothing negative about asking for and receiving help – it’s a positive step towards a happier, more successful life, with or without hearing loss.