Finding Comfort with the Discomfort of Hearing Loss

One of the reasons hearing loss is so frustrating is because we cannot control it. When entering a new situation, we don’t know what listening challenges we will meet. We can’t figure out in advance if an important speaker will be a mumbler or worse yet a mumbler with a voice in your hardest to hear frequencies. We have little authority over our hearing loss, but what we can control is how we react to it and what steps we take to counteract it. We take back the power when we learn to find comfort with discomfort.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Finding Comfort With Discomfort

Regular readers know that yoga is an important part of my daily life. It helps me blow off steam, stay healthy and handle the frustrating aspects of my hearing loss. I practice several styles of yoga, but the one I do most often is Bikram yoga, which occurs in a heated room — typically set to 105º and 40% humidity. It is not for everyone, but I love it because it has taught me an important lesson — how to find comfort with discomfort.

I cannot control the heat in the room, or whether the teacher opens the door to bring in some fresh air, I can only manage my reaction to it. Sometimes I want to run for the door and escape into the cool lobby air, but overtime I have learned to control these impulses, continuing to practice despite the heat or sitting down for a rest when needed. Nothing I do will change the parameters of the situation, but my actions will change how I feel about the challenge and how much I will suffer.

You don’t have to cook yourself in a hot room to understand the benefits of this concept. Holding a yoga posture in a cool breeze can be equally challenging if the teacher chooses to hold it longer than you would like. You can’t change what the teacher has decided to do, but you can control how you behave in response. Sometimes this might require modifying the posture using straps or blocks to adapt the pose to your needs. Taking charge of what you can control will make it a better experience for you.

How To Make Peace With Your Hearing Loss

It is the same with hearing loss. We cannot control how well we will hear in a certain situation. We often cannot change the acoustics of the room or the background noise that is present. We certainly cannot govern the behavior of others, but when we make peace with that lack of control, we can begin to focus on the power we have to alter the situation to maximize our ability to hear.

Here are some ways we can exert control. Please add your suggestions in the comments.

1. Let others know about our hearing loss. Hearing loss is an invisible disability. If we don’t let people know that we have trouble hearing, they are unlikely to notice right away, let alone speak slowly and clearly or make sure they are facing us when they speak.

2. Provide specific requests for assistance. The more details we provide in our asks the better. People are generally willing to help, but they may not know what to do. The same goes for venues. Call ahead to see what accommodations are available and request what it is that you need. Planning ahead goes a long way.

3. Understand what tools are available to help you. Educate yourself about hearing assistive technologies and use them. Some, like Roger pens and the like are costly, but others like the new Live Transcribe app are free. Using these tools will take some practice, but they will improve your interactions enormously.

4. Accept your hearing loss. This is a tough one for many of us, but the more relaxed you can be about your hearing loss, the more comfortable others will be. We cannot control our hearing loss, but we must also not give it the power to govern us.

5. Focus on what you can control. Expend your energy on what you can control — finding the best seat in the room at a lecture or asking your partner to speak louder — rather than on trying to hide your hearing loss or being angry about how hard it is for you to hear.

Readers, how do you find comfort in the discomfort of your hearing loss?

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19 thoughts on “Finding Comfort with the Discomfort of Hearing Loss

  1. You lost me at “call ahead.” Haha.

    I’m 34 and have worn hearing aids since I was 4. I was never in denial of my hearing loss, but I’m not sure I really accepted it until recently. Great tips!

  2. Regrettably, I realize I have given up on some situations and even people. When I am involved in a conversation with more than one other person I invariably loose the thread. Friends who know my situation invariably fail to face me or speak clearly. People in my age group don’t seem to learn new tricks well if at all. After a while I grow discouraged and tend to withdraw. I don’t like this one bit. Your point cuts right to the bone, Shari. I am not comfortable in my discomfort. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I am more skeptical in my discomfort. I am keenly aware that there is a huge piece of the pie of life that is off limits to me. I do keep trying but I am always aware of the location of the “exit” sign.

    • I feel a little better knowing someone is dealing (or not) with the situation the same way I am. But I wish I could do better.

    • Amen!! Why do I have to make adjustments when I physically can’t? I’ve done as much as I can by wearing annoying but necessary hearing aids! Can’t the others involved make an adjustment or two? Please quit covering your mouth with your hand!! Look at me!! I can read your lips, your face, your body even!!

      • It certainly is a two way street. Both communication partners have to give a little. It is our job to explain what we need and hopefully our friends and family can do these things consistently. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Thanks for your blog, Shari, I always get a lot out of it and recommend it to my hearing loss friends. I was recently at the HLAA convention and heard audiologist Alison Marinelli (who herself has hearing loss) speak on “Listening Effort” which was the topic of her doctoral dissertation. She interviewed many people to find out what situations required the most effort for them and was surprised how many people mentioned yoga class. I have a yoga studio across the street from me and when I moved here was pleased to see that they have an “over 55” class. I am 73 and the opposite of lithe and slender. I joined the class and told the teacher about my hearing loss and she did her best to accommodate me, but in certain poses I had no idea what she was saying and had to look at others to try to copy what they were doing, which was a strain. After a few classes, I thought, yoga is supposed to help you relax but it’s such a strain for me, I feel just the opposite, and I dropped out of class. I’m wondering how you deal with that problem of not being able to hear the teacher?

  4. Yoga has helped with my balance issues but I don’t do it on a regular basis. Like Betty, whenever there are group classes, they have to play music. Fine for most folks but not us with hearing loss. If I take another yoga class, I’d give the instructor a mini mic that streams directly to my aids.

  5. I moved to the country to get away from noise. The noise in cities are everywhere and you can’t escape it. Growing up on the farm was so great and my hearing issues began when I went in the service and had to be in so many cities.

  6. I am glad someone mentioned music. WHY must it be on FULL BLAST everywhere we go? In our Lyft, in our Uber (and having HOH on your profile doesn’t help though most drivers are polite enough to turn it down or off in backseat) a FedEx office, at a gas pump, at the grocery or drug store and especially in the mall (outdoor or indoor malls); there is absolutely no escape. Then there are the people whose bass is so loud in the adjoining car that it shakes your own auto and you wonder how long it will be before THEY are HOH. I wish we had options of going in places that were quiet. Most restaurants are off limits for my friends and I unless we sit outside. I wonder how long it took our society to evolve into a mindset which thought all of this background noise was necessary? I think I need to move to Japan, Finland, or Alaska at some point! Ok, that was a little tongue in cheek, but seriously. We need a quieter world.

  7. Very nice article! Being our own advocate seems to be the key. It’s a fear of mine to constantly advocate for myself to hear the best but once I face my fear I feel like a whole new person. If I don’t advocate for myself I feel like I shut down as a person. Living in our comfort zone seems nice but the magic lies in the fear zone. Much love all!!

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