A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Coping with hearing loss

In Accommodations for Deaf, Cochlear Implants, Deafness, Employment, Hearing aids, Hearing Loss, Tinnitus on November 7, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Most recently on one of our lists, a lengthy discussion became somewhat of a battle as to the use of the word “COPING.”  Many people felt that coping was an important part of accepting our hearing loss.  Others believed that the word coping is a cop out that focuses on acceptance of being less of a person.

Personally, I believe you have to have a good support system and have developed good coping skills to get to acceptance of your new life as a person with hearing loss or deafness.   Naturally, the hearing population is pretty clueless when it comes to understanding life with a hearing loss and how alienating and depressing one can feel when we stop coping or do not know how to cope and just feel overwhelmed.  I just love when I ask a hearing person to repeat what they just said (I really should be asking them to rephrase) and they ask me if my hearing aid is working today?

Coping with our hearing loss is synonymous to learning to cope with hearing people and their reactions to our loss.  Personally, I don’t recall ever dealing with by my hearing loss at the age of 19. I acted as though it wasn’t my problem but the hearing persons problem.  However, I did choose to work in the field of hearing loss and deafness and it wasn’t until I was in my early 40’s that an audiologist friend pulled me aside and very “nicely” told me, I was not hearing as well as I might think I am.  That it was time for me to consider getting a hearing aid.  At first I looked at her as if she were coming from another planet and I felt angry. In my mind,  I was hearing just fine. I was not open at that time, to wearing a hearing aid as my previous experiences had been horrendous and pricey.

She took me into the audio booth and gave me the hearing test I stopped doing years ago.  She explained my hearing loss to me but she did something else that no one had previously done, she explained exactly what I wasn’t hearing and showed me the results on an audiogram with graphics.  It showed me what I was missing out on.  Something just clicked, not like a light bulb going on but more like an aha moment. Suddenly, I felt less angry (something I had been denying for a long time) and suddenly I searched until I found an audiologist I could work with to assist me with trying out different hearing aids.

To this day, I use the audiogram with graphics to explain a childs’ hearing loss to the parent, to the student, to the teacher or to whomever the parent wants me to explain it to.  This helps all the parties involved to COPE and to strategize what is needed in moving toward acceptance by both the individual/student with hearing loss as well as the hearing people involved.

I can proudly say, I have been wearing my hearing aid religiously (and I’m not a religious person), for 12 years.  I still don’t hear everything but my hearing aid is part of my coping with hearing loss. I have no speech discrimination in one ear so I can only aid the ear that has a moderate to profound loss.  I find that my most challenging times continue to be with the hearing world but I am no longer angry.  The need for educating them about what a hearing loss or deafness means to us and that it can happen to anyone not just the elderly.

So coping to me, is not a negative word, its a reality. If we don’t cope we allow ourselves to sink into the belly of isolation and lonliness and that is not a place I want to be nor do I want u to be.  Helping each other is important to coping.  If you know someone who is feeling alienated due to their hearing loss, help them find support systems whether it be on line or a group at a community clinic or join us at the SayWhatClub.  I would love to hear how others coped with their hearing loss or deafness.

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  1. Awesome post, dear. I already mentioned this on the list but will say it again. The single most important thing I ever did was learning to inform others of my hearing loss.

  2. wow… very interesting read. I never would have thought of “coping” in itself being a bad thing. We all cope.. with different things… for different reasons.

    I would never have thought it meant, “acceptance of being less of a person”. ???

    Does accepting the fact that you are deaf or HOH, equal accepting that you are less of a person”?!? I sure hope not. I never want my son to feel like that, and I certainly never thought that about him or anyone else.

    debcny

  3. Deb, feel free to mention away

  4. Interesting about the audiogram with graphics. I’ve never seen that before, an audiogram with graphics. Can you post a picture of it?

    Also, a suggested replacement for the word “coping:” how about “living” as in living with hearing loss? I like to say that deafness is simply something that you live with, every day.

  5. Great article, Pearl!! I have never consider the word “coping”, related to hearing loss or not, as a negative term. We all cope in one way or another. Coping is the only tool I have ever had in understanding and communicating in the world. I coped naturally, as a child losing my hearing gradually, and those skills were built upon and extended as I aged and lost even more hearing. And I do consider “coping” a skill, a positive and important skill. Yes, I learned to cope out of necessity, as related to losing my hearing, but I find I apply and benefit from my coping skills in all areas of my life. It is the part of losing my hearing that I view as a positive.

    Michele

  6. I recently heard that you don’t learn “coping skills” to deal with hearing loss… you learn “communication management skills” sounds much better than “coping” eh?

  7. Deb–What an interesting perspective on the “less of a person” comment. Some late-deafened people DO feel less, because they lost something. This is all part of the ‘acceptance/coping’ process. I don’t feel lesser. I’ve gained insight others don’t have. 🙂

  8. joecasta– For many late-deafened learning new communication skills is the tip of the ice berg. I’ve said many times before– hearing loss isn’t about loss of hearing. So many other aspects of our lives are affected by hearing loss, that’s it’s really life as we know it. It’s a huge loss to grapple with because it impacts nearly everything we do with friends, family and at work. Not only must we change how we communicate but more importantly others must change how they communicate with us. That’s the hard part. People who are musical have an especially hard time adjusting to the distorted sound with hearing aids and/or implants. The modern world expects many of us to be on the phone constantly in our jobs. That’s an impossible hurdle for some of us and hard to explain to others who knew us as hearing individuals. ‘Coping’ is a good term here.

  9. Hi Kim… well, I was just echoing what your original post said in the first paragraph about how “some” people feel coping means that.
    I never would have thought that personally – or that the word coping could imply such a thing.

    Personally, I relate the word “coping” to the word “dealing” with things… and I think we all have need to do it for one reason or another… and it can either be done negatively… or positively…

    debcny

  10. Speaking from the perspective of a born with hearing loss person, I never accepted that I was less of a person … well, not exactly anyway. I felt defective! During my childhood, no one accepted my hearing loss. My brothers were downright mean about it, my parents obviously loved me, but didn’t have a clue as to what to do about it. My classmates shunned me or laughed at me. If I learned to cope, it was to ignore others which actually only made it worse! Nothing I did seemed to be right! I was never where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be because I hadn’t heard the announcement. I was laughed at in class when I asked the same question or gave the same answer as someone else had just done. It was a miserable life. When I was 25, I got my first hearing aids. They helped but the damage was done with no relief in site. It wasn’t until age 50 when I joined SWC that I learned that I was not defective! SWC has been the savior of my life.

  11. Ellen – that’s terible. I’m sorry you went through all that – but, glad that you’re finally in a better place.

    I am probably being dense… but, what does SWC stand for? I tried to look it up and found 65 different definitions… LOL
    (http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/SWC)

    debcny

  12. Okay – I AM being dense! It’s for Say What Club, right?

    Wow… I better go get some coffee!! LOL

  13. How have I coped? By questioning the diagnosis of otosclerosis to ensure that it was a proper diagnosis. The ENT specialist didn’t examine any other alternative other than otosclerosis with a passing, “At least you won’t die from it” at the end of the appointment. When I lost significant hearing in my 2nd year, the prognosis & treatment of otosclerosis was so dismal that I had no choice other than to search other alternatives. My first step (as described on my blog), was Chinese tea which demonstrated that my hearing fluctuated. My next step was acupuncture where the Chinese doctor indicated he thought I had a chronic sinus infection (to which the ENT snorted). Although my left ear has fluctuated somewhat, I usually now have 100% hearing (which I likely wouldn’t have if I had relied on the Western ENT’s diagnosis of otosclerosis). I daily do sinus rinses twice with a Nettiepot. I am trying a naturopathic diet (which so far hasn’t seemed to affect my hearing but has improved other minor medical issues ~ of interest is that I now experience sinus headaches after eating sugar ~ perhaps a link between sugar consumption & hearing for me?). I was finally referred to a lung specialist who agreed that my hearing challenges could be linked to my persistent coughing (potentially asthma which is being investigated next). It has been a tiring task but I believe my body is determined to get well as well so I am giving it the best opportunity possible.

    My scepticism was justified of the otosclerosis diagnosis when I asked the ENT whether he could see the otosclerosis; he couldn’t but based his opinion on the audiology test. Interestingly, the audiologist herself had questioned the diagnosis of otosclerosis because it wasn’t typical of the otosclerosis tests she had seen.

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