5 stages of hearing loss
By Sylvia, Hearing Link Services volunteer
People diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses or facing disability for whatever reason experience the same stages as those facing hearing loss. However, hearing loss is an invisible disability and there is considerable stigma within society about it. Hearing people do not equate hearing loss with other forms of loss and therefore have difficulty in understanding the process hearing loss sufferers go through.
Although I had some hearing loss for a number of years, I was in denial. I simply did not want my friends to know I had a hearing aid. It somehow made me feel a lesser person. Whilst this did not seem to pose significant problems at the time, in retrospect it was the beginning of an erosion of confidence.
When I suffered sudden hearing loss in one ear combined with significantly reduced hearing in the other, I was in a state of shock. My family did not know how to deal with it and I did not want to acknowledge it. I felt very sorry for myself.
I spent a long time in the denial stage and so even if I had known about organisations such as Hearing Link I probably would not have wanted to seek support and nobody encouraged me to do so.
My audiologist was the only support I had and he helped me begin a long journey towards a new life.
Following denial came anger. Why should this happen to me and why is it that no one makes an effort to make sure I can hear? Family meals became fraught occasions, as I felt excluded and resentful. I had the attitude that I was suffering and what could they possibly know about it. It was a very difficult phase. I felt my whole life was in upheaval and could never be the same again. I bemoaned all the things I could no longer do, such as listening to music, films and most of all socialising/entertaining, which I loved.
I felt annoyed with my audiologist for not making me hear again.
The anger gave way to a feeling of helplessness and the need for someone else to take control and find a solution for me. With hindsight, I was desperately expecting my audiologist to overcome my hearing loss through technology. I became dependant, requiring reassurance to quell the fear of further hearing loss. I dreaded hearing tests and if anything went wrong with the hearing aid, I panicked that it was my hearing instead. I think I would compare this period to one of resisting acceptance and wanting to be looked after, but doing little to help myself; a victim of circumstance seeking recompense.
I gradually withdrew from seeing old friends because I did not see the point of putting myself through a stressful situation. If I did meet people with my husband in group situations, I couldn’t hold a conversation and was reliant on him to tell me what people were saying. He tended to provide few details so I ended up feeling as though the whole thing was a nightmare and came home feeling shattered.
I then refused to meet up and suggested he went on his own.
I spent more and more time studying, gardening and avoiding people. I dreaded questions in shops and anybody coming to the house to do repairs etc.
My confidence was diminishing rapidly and I was suffering from anxiety as a result.
I was anxious about meeting my son and daughter’s partners because I felt they wouldn’t see the real me and would feel sorry for me.
The turning point for me was when my daughter decided to do a half marathon to raise funds for Action on Hearing Loss. They subsequently asked if I would share my story. The involvement with the organisation triggered a desire to take control of my life again. I joined a lipreading class, which proved the best thing I had done thus far. I even considered training myself. Not only do you gain a useful tool, it is an opportunity to share experiences and laugh. I also realised that the elderly have even greater reluctance to acknowledge hearing loss due to stigma. Many would rather not hear than wear hearing aids.
RNID, formerly Action on Hearing Loss, used my lipreading experience for their brochure and then my audiologist asked me to get involved with their website.
As a result, I gained confidence and started being upfront about my hearing loss. It had a knock on effect, as my family were proud of my efforts, which in turn encouraged me to move forward. I decided I wanted to see a hearing therapist and so organised it through my GP and that has actually been key to my ongoing development. It has been an impartial sounding board and support mechanism.
I accept my loss now and want to get the best possible outcome in terms of a fulfilling life in spite of it. I’m still learning.
I now think the pleasure of seeing old friends and new outweighs the avoidance. I try to employ strategies to help me cope e.g. controlling the environment. However, self-preservation is important and sometimes it is best to avoid.
There will always be days when people are rude, the strain of trying to hear is exhausting and I need time out, but I’m better equipped to deal with such situations now.
Webpage reviewed: February 2023
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