The loss of a core sense like hearing is both jarring and difficult to cope with. Some people have described it as feeling like you fell asleep in your bedroom and woke up on a raft in the middle of the ocean. It’s confusing, isolating, and terrifying.
There are multiple complex emotions involved. Health concerns to address. And oft-massive lifestyle changes for everyone involved.
It’s not easy to regain your confidence after losing your hearing, to say nothing of the stigmas surrounding deafness. And if someone you care about reacts negatively to the news? That hurts.
Because it’s difficult to predict how a loved one might react, feeling anxious about telling them is quite understandable. You know you need to tell them, but how exactly can you do so? What should you say, exactly?
It depends on the person. The conversation will be very different between parent and child than between partners or friends. The best I can offer is some general advice on the topic — ultimately, you need to speak in your own voice.
Give Yourself Time
It’s okay if you need time to process the news before you talk to anyone. Take as much time as you need. And if you need support, know that you do not need to deal with this experience alone.
There are many thriving communities and support groups available for both hard-of-hearing (HoH) people and their loved ones. There are also therapists that have experience talking to HoH clients. Ultimately, be kind to yourself, and don’t force yourself to talk before you’re ready.
Be Honest (and Ready for Questions)
It’s okay to express anger or fear. Losing your hearing is not fair. You don’t need to be okay with it.
That said, your loved ones don’t know what you’re going through. They might not understand what you need, or how you’re actually feeling. Without being in your shoes, it’s hard for someone to understand exactly what’s going on in your life.
They simply don’t have an insider perspective, which also means you should be ready for questions. You’ll also likely be asked the same questions by multiple people. Just remember that, though they may be repetitive and frustrating, they rarely come from a place of rudeness.
If you don’t want to repeat yourself, you might consider bookmarking a few links to resources that can help your loved ones understand.
Hearing loss can be a crushing weight to bear. At times, you may not have the energy to answer questions or talk about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to establish this.
Many people simply don’t realize when they’re overstepping or being too nosy. As such, you may only want to tell certain friends or family members. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, that’s okay. This is your story to tell.
It’s not juicy family gossip, and it’s not information anyone has an absolute right to know.
Hearing and Understanding
When you or someone you care about experiences hearing loss, it’s hard to know where to start. It can be difficult to even tell which side is up anymore. Just remember, above all else, that you are still you, with or without your hearing.
About the Author:
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.