I have read about the five stages of grief — denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance — and they remind me a lot of the stages of hearing loss. This makes sense, because for many, myself included, the loss of hearing is something to be mourned, to be missed, to be fought. We hide it, we hate it, we ignore it, we are sad about it, and eventually we accept it, or at least the lucky ones of us do. But for people with hearing loss, these are not the only steps.
With hearing loss, it is a process of not only grieving, but also of learning to live again in a new and different way. There is fear. There is reliance on other people like doctors and audiologists. There is technology to learn, new habits to create and accommodations to request. There is acceptance, but even with acceptance there is the constant battle of self-advocacy. It is exhausting, but it is worth it.
Here are my stages of hearing loss. What are yours?
1. Denial: Why is everyone mumbling? If only they turned down the background music, I could hear my dinner companions just fine. The audio for this TV program must be set too low. We’ve all been through this one.
2. Fear: What if it is true? How will my life change? Will others shun me? Can I function at my job? As a parent? As a spouse? Will I face discrimination? The stigma associated with hearing loss can make people afraid not only of the loss of their hearing, but also of social embarrassment and shame.
3. Anger: Why can’t people speak more clearly? Why is my spouse such a low talker? Keep your hands away from your face when you talk to me! This is not fair.
4. Sadness: I feel isolated from my friends and family. I don’t want to socialize anymore because I can’t hear what people are saying. Nobody works to include me in the conversation. I missed the punchline of the joke, again. I am unhappy.
5. Realization: I can do something about this. It is up to me to make this better. I need a roadmap to navigate the puzzle of hearing loss.
6. Action: Making that appointment for the first hearing test or hearing aid consultation sometimes takes a lot of courage, but it is the right thing to do. Try to involve your family in the process. You will need their support and assistance.
7. Frustration: I am treating my hearing loss with hearing aids/CIs and other devices, but I still have problems hearing. Why isn’t my hearing restored to normal? Unfortunately hearing aids don’t work like glasses.
8. Hard work: Keep trying. Adjust settings. Try some more. Hearing our best takes a lot of hard work. We need to keep trying new technologies, keep up on the latest assistive listening devices and reminding ourselves and others to follow communication best practices. But it is worth it.
9. Acceptance: My hearing is not perfect, but I function better with my hearing devices. I understand what I need to do to hear my best and I can ask for what I need from others. I am socializing and enjoying myself again.
10. Advocacy: What can I do to make life easier for other people with hearing loss? Getting involved with others who understand your situation is not only rewarding personally, it helps make the future brighter for the next generation.
Readers, did you go through the stages of hearing loss?