Do You Have Hearing Loss Friends?

A few weeks ago I attended HLAA’s annual convention. It is always a treat. Several days of hearing accessible workshops, learning about new products available for people with hearing loss in the exhibition hall, and just plain fun, hanging out with my hearing loss friends. It is a great mix of people — some with more severe hearing issues, some with less, but each has something to teach me in terms of coping skills and tricks of the trade. And simply friendship. I can’t wait for next year.

I remember heading to my 1st convention 3 years ago. I was worried I would not fit in. I started losing my hearing in my 20s, but didn’t wear hearing aids regularly for more than 10 years. I didn’t yet define myself as someone with hearing loss — if anything I was still trying to hide it and deny it in certain contexts.

But finding my peer group changed all that. I met people who understood my predicament. I learned tips and tricks to hear better. I connected with other impassioned advocates. I grew as a person.

When I get together with my hearing loss friends, the first 5 minutes of any gathering is taken up by making sure everyone is in the best seat for whatever particular hearing issues they have. Some can’t face the window, others need to have someone only on their left side, etc. It is quite comical when you think about it, but also necessary so that everyone can participate. We do this all with a smile.

During our time together, we follow communication best practices like taking turns speaking and facing each other for clear communication. If someone looks confused, we say it again. And again. Until the other person understands. It is a relaxing environment for any who struggles to keep up with conversations on a regular basis.

While our friendships may have started because of our shared hearing problems, over time they evolve. We find other things that we have in common — the love of the theater, reading books, travel, gardening, or whatever. And the friendships grow.

For anyone struggling with hearing loss, finding a peer group of others with the same issues can truly lighten the load. Click here to find a local HLAA chapter in your area or ask your audiologist if he can introduce you to others in your situation. I love spending time with my hearing loss friends, and I bet you would too.

Readers, do you have hearing loss friends?

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29 thoughts on “Do You Have Hearing Loss Friends?

  1. Hi. On 2 June 2017 I underwent a 12 hour operation for head and neck cancer. Fortunately my surgeon and his team removed the cancer. In the procedure they made a decision to remove my right ear. I am now living with Deaf on One Side. I begin Radiation Theropy on 9 August.

    As part of my therapy I have turned to my principal love, writing. I have always believed that writing is good therapy. I began a blog.

    It is free. I have published 10 to date. The subject matter is my personal feelings and emotions through this life-altering circumstance. I am thinking that perhaps through my words others will see that they are not alone.

    Thank you for reading my Reply.

    Sun Wukong
    Head and neck cancer survivor

  2. I’ve only missed 4 national conventions since they started in 1984! Everyone one of them has been a joy to attend. It’s 5 days of the year when a person with hearing loss is just like everyone else! I missed that experience in 2017, but will be there in 2018 and look forward to meeting you Shari. A word to anyone who doesn’t have an HLAA group/chapter near you. Start one. It’s a labor of love that’s well worth the time!

  3. Shari, I think isolation is the bane of the hearing impaired. Sometimes it’s just easier NOT to go – to participate – to visit. The effort is so tiring. I live in Maine. There’s no better place to be isolated if that’s what you want. I live in a small community where houses are widely separated. Get the picture? I look forward to visits to my doctor for the social aspect of it.

    I discovered that there are 23 recipients of CIs (the kind i have) in Maine. I have met one of them. The company representative for New England promises a get-together so we can all meet and in my mind find some way to meet now and then. I’m guessing that there are dozens of CI users of other brands as well. There is, at least, a potential here for some social interaction – it seems. That would be nice to see.

    • That is a great idea. Maybe you could ask for the email addresses so you could reach out to the other people with CIs sooner? Talking with people who understand is a huge help.

  4. Hello Shari. I would so love to have some friends with hearing loss. Since losing my hearing just over 10 months ago, i haven’t connected ‘in real life’ with anyone with a hearing loss. As I live in Spain, there is the obvious language barrier, as I am not fluent in Spanish. I have actually used wordpress and the internet as a way of connecting to others with similar issues.
    After reading this post, I feel that maybe I should loo for one of these events in England (where my sister lives), and see if I am able to ask my boss for a few days off work in order to attend. I really feel like I would benefit so much from this…
    Definitely something to think about…
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Take care

  5. Yes! I have hearing loss friends and count my self so lucky! I’m thrilled to have gotten to know so many folks whom, I never would have come to know otherwise. When my husband retired, we attended counseling to help us adapt to the change. We discovered that for me.the change in routine was much more than “What’s for lunch, dear?” We discovered that I had erringly assumed the responsibility for communication. When he or anyone else started a conversation, I immediately got closer. While I hadn’t quite reached the “always face me” stage, upon hearing his voice, I was programmed to hop up and get myself closer.. within my “hearing bubble.” When this became clear, our counselor asked “Do you have any hearing loss friends?” That’s when I realized I needed to get myself to a chapter meeting! Even though I’d been a HLAA member since 1983, ( I was in my 20’s) I had not been active in my chapter. Of course, it was the folks at the chapter who modeled for me how communication is a two-way process and not solely my responsibility! Fast forward 17 years, we have worked to alter our habits, and though it is a process..change is hard, good communication is so worth it! And I thank my hearing loss friends for showing me the way and in doing so, giving me the gift of their friendship.

  6. Unfortunately, I cannot find any here in Hawaii. I asked my Audiologist when I got implanted in 2015 for support group for hearing loss or someone I can relate with but doesn’t want to provide me due to confidentiality. It was really hard and I am struggling on this.

  7. Hi Shari, I’m guessing this years convention was in Salt Lake City? Interesting city, visited in 2010. I see next years is in Minneapolis, MN. Looks great , and I’ve never attended a HLAA convention but if one is nearer my home state of NJ, I may consider in the future. I have attended a few hearing loss and deaf events in NYC as well as a few monthly meetings over the years , were really interesting, if not mentally challenging. I found after a few hours of lip reading and trying to converse with other hearing impaired people, I was brain fried. Haha. And I’m not that old. But I’m sure they provide plenty of captioning, and interpreting to accommodate everyone at these conventions.. I have a few hearing impaired friends, one just recently had a cochlear implant done. I was also married to a profoundly deaf man (we are now divorced), and although it didn’t last, it was such a great learning experience for me as I was never really exposed to deaf culture, and he introduced me to do many ways of coping and thriving in the hearing world with limited hearing.

  8. hi Shari, Ian from Mexico City and we don’t have an HLAA chapter, the only deaf people that make meeting are those that communicate with sigan language. You speak and know shin lenguaje. The other think is that I don’t speak well English… I have deaf friends but in Argentina, Peru.. I think is very important to have deaf friends

  9. Yes, I have MANY friends that are hard of hearing and it all started by attending an HLAA chapter meeting. I am now president of that chapter and have learned so much. I also encourage your readers that do not have a local chapter to consider starting one. HLAA will help with the process. Here are some other ways of locating other people with hearing loss. As you’ve mentioned, the cochlear implant companies have meet and greets. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a CI. Senior Centers will have a lot of people with HL and they might even have a support group started. Alexander Graham Bell and Hands & Voices are organizations geared towards children, but they are always looking for adults with hearing loss as mentors. It helps the kids know that they can be successful with hearing loss. I have gained members to my chapter by looking for people with either a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or service dog. There are a LOT of us out there!

  10. I wasn’t aware of this! I do have a small D/HoH community but I don’t participate as much as I should. The majority of them are fluent in ASL and I’m only kind of intermediate; 3 levels in college. I have a pretty good vocabulary but both my signing and receptivity is slow. I’ll check out HRAA.

  11. Shari-

    It’s wonderful to see all of the good you are doing post JPM. My father has grappled with hearing loss for the past 20 years (he used to be a noise/vibration engineer and didn’t always use protective equipment). His hearing has deteriorated to the point that I think his speech is becoming harder to understand and it is causing him to not understand his grandchildren. Any books that you can recommend to help my brother and I broach the subject of hearing aids?

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