Hearing loss can make us feel isolated and alone, especially if we lose our hearing later in life. We are facing new challenges with communication, relationships and everyday living, but we don’t know who to talk to about them. Or what to do to overcome these difficulties. Often, we don’t have other people with hearing loss in our lives. We may feel like we are in this all by ourselves. But we are not. We have each other.
My Solitary Struggle with Hearing Loss
I first noticed my hearing loss in my mid-20s in graduate school, but my hearing loss journey began as a child, watching my father battle his own hearing issues. He was highly stigmatized by his hearing loss, doing everything he could to hide it — even growing his hair long over his ears to hide his hearing aids.
My father never asked anyone to speak louder or to switch seats so he could hear better. And because he never wanted to discuss his hearing loss, we never inquired what we could do to help support him. He must have felt so alone.
For many years, I followed his example, hiding my hearing loss and being embarrassed by it. I never asked for communication assistance, preferring to suffer in silence rather than disclose that I had trouble hearing.
But once I had children I realized this needed to change. I saw them watching me hide my hearing loss and being embarrassed by it. I was perpetuating the cycle of shame and isolation. Because my hearing loss is genetic, I worried that I might have passed it on to them. I needed to do a better job modeling how to live well with hearing loss.
Peer Support Helped Me Feel Less Alone
I began volunteering at hearing loss charities and for the first time, met other people with hearing loss. They understood what it was like to be exhausted at the end of a long day of listening and to dread socializing in large groups. Many of them had once felt alone with their hearing challenges too, yet now they inspired me with their successful and abundant lives. There were musicians and teachers and business people living with purpose and joy. They gave me hope that I could do it too.
I began disclosing my hearing loss and teaching my friends and family the best practice communication tips we use today for good conversation. My children were watching me still, but this time they were learning how to survive and thrive with hearing loss should either of them develop it too.
No Need to Face Hearing Loss Alone
How do you find hearing loss peers? Many people with hearing loss live in smaller cities or places without organized hearing loss organizations. One silver lining of the pandemic is increased access to hearing loss support.
When chapters and other local groups could no longer meet in person, they created online meetings and webinars which attracted people from across the globe. No longer were we limited by our geographic location. We could reach across state and country lines to learn and share with one another.
In one such recent meeting, I was a panelist for an online discussion sponsored by the International Federation of Hard of Hearing Young People or IFHOHYP. Entitled Life after Deafness: Remembering, Rebuilding, Reimagining, the seminar focused on adjusting to a life with hearing loss, with a special emphasis on handling hearing loss in the workplace.
The participants joined from across the world — different time zones, languages, and varied degrees of access to hearing loss services and support. But we shared one thing, our desire to learn from one another. The main takeaway from the event: When you have hearing loss, you are not alone. In fact, we are all in this together.
Social Media Aids Hearing Loss Connections
How can we find one another? One easy way to dip your toe into the water is online.
- Seek out websites related to hearing loss or blogs like this one where you can gather information and real world advice from others like you.
- Attend a webinar or online meeting and connect with the speakers or other attendees that seem to share your experiences. There is usually a very active chat where people share contact details and other useful links.
- Join a Facebook group or two. There are many, each with its own personality and focus area. Try a few to find the ones that work for you.
There is no need to struggle alone with your hearing loss. The power of shared experiences can help you rebuild confidence and develop new skills to enhance communication. You may also make some new friends along the way. I certainly did.
Readers, what helps you feel less alone with your hearing loss?