Does your hearing loss ever scare you? Most of the time I accept my hearing loss, following communication best practices and self-advocacy tips to live my best life. I feel confident and capable. But sometimes I get afraid. Like when my hearing aids are on the fritz for a few days or I have a particularly challenging communication experience. Or when I have a close call crossing the street or trouble remembering something.
These are the times when I succumb to worry. What will my life be like as my hearing loss worsens? How will it impact my relationships? My health? My livelihood?
Here are the 6 things that scare me the most about my hearing loss. Please add your thoughts in the comments.
1. A Higher Risk of Dementia: Whenever a new study comes out linking hearing loss to dementia, I worry about the consequences for me. The latest study (July 2017) produced by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care (LCDPIC) stated that hearing loss in mid-life could be responsible for 9.1% of the risk of developing dementia. Yikes! The good news is that the study characterized this as a modifiable risk, which means that treating hearing loss (using hearing aids, CIs or other assistive listening devices) can lower that risk.
2. Feeling isolated and lonely: Hearing loss makes communication more difficult and exhausting, which can often lead to self-imposed isolation. When I feel this tendency, I take a break, and then force myself to reengage. It takes work, but the rewards of intimacy and friendship are always worth the effort.
3. Passing it on to my kids: This one won’t apply to everyone, but for me, it is one of the primary reasons for my advocacy work. My hearing loss is genetic, starting in my mid-20s. I hope I have not passed it onto my children (they are too young to know for sure), but if I have, I want them to be as prepared as possible to thrive despite hearing loss and its challenges.
4. Becoming irrelevant: Communicating with someone with hearing loss takes extra time and planning. Why engage with the person with hearing loss when you can contact/hire/befriend someone else more easily? Every “Never mind” and “It’s not important” supports this fear. Speaking up against this treatment is our only choice.
5. Being unable to do things I enjoy: Hearing loss makes certain recreational activities harder. Luckily technology has made it possible to successfully attend the theater, listen to music, and watch movies, even with a hearing loss. Future advancements will only improve our access to these activities and more.
6. Ending up alone: Hearing loss is difficult for the person with the hearing loss, but it also takes a toll on family and friends. In my darkest times I worry that this burden will become too much and I will be left alone. Lucky for me, I have a supportive family and a network of hearing loss friends that I hope will be with me for quite some time.
Readers, what scares you most about your hearing loss?