Do you avoid talking about your hearing loss? Maybe you are afraid others will treat you differently or look down on you. Or maybe you think less of yourself, beaten down by societal stigma that still links hearing loss with being old or out of touch. Or maybe you assume no one will understand what it is like to have hearing loss anyway, so why bother. Whatever the reason, when we avoid talking about our hearing loss, we make it harder to live well with it.
I hid my hearing loss for a decade, following in the footsteps of my father who avoiding talking about his hearing loss at all costs. Over time, he isolated himself from almost everyone—family, colleagues, friends. It makes me sad to think about it. After many years, and in hopes of setting a better example for my children, I realized there was only one way to forge a different path—by being open about my hearing loss.
As Fred Rogers said:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers)
Hearing Loss is Fraught with Emotion
Hearing loss comes with baggage—emotional worries that can weigh us down. We carry them wherever we go.
Will my friends remember to speak one-at-a-time at dinner tonight?
Will I miss out on the fun of my child’s birthday party?
Should I smile and nod and hope nobody notices that I don’t know what they are saying?
Can’t I just stay home?
The answer to all these questions is “No.”
Staying home is not an option if you want to stay connected to the people and activities that you love. Bluffing may seem like a good way to partake in the fun, but it merely deepens the communication divide. And while it may take a few Hearing Hacks, you do not need to miss out on the fun of a child’s birthday party.
(And also no, your friends will not remember to speak one-at-a-time. But you can remind them. Again and again.)
Mentioning the “Unmentionable” is the Key to Success
It’s hard to bring our best self-advocacy selves to every social encounter, but when we do, the results are better.
The first step is letting others know about our hearing loss. Hi, I’m Shari and I have hearing loss. Do you mind facing me when you speak to me? I practiced my hearing loss script on strangers where the stakes were lower until it rolled off my tongue with ease.
But self-identifying is not enough. Well-meaning people may think they should shout at us or speak veeerrrryyyy slowly, but all this does is make it harder to speechread. We must also let them know what we need from them for better communication. Like when I asked the person to face me in my hearing loss script above.
Avoiding talking about your hearing loss is a tough habit to break. It takes practice and time so be patient with yourself, but commit to being a little more open each day. In the words of Fred Rogers, anything “…mentionable can be more manageable.”
Readers, do you avoid talking about your hearing loss?
For more on the emotions of hearing loss read the “MindShifts” section of Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss.