Coming to terms with hearing loss and deafness

Acceptance - the first step

Where deafness has crept up on us gradually over the years, you have probably tried to hide it. I used to rely on all sorts of strategies, such as, "Sorry I missed that because of the noise of the dishwasher / fridge / postman / etc" - always said while moving nearer to the person speaking so that I could better hear what was going to be repeated.

When I wasn't quite so deaf, this strategy worked, but nowadays I have to admit the truth: I have a disability and that disability is called deafness.

Living with deafness and hearing loss

Once we face up to the situation, some of us will get ourselves hearing aids which, if we are lucky, will solve the problem. But they don't for me, even though they help, and they don't for countless other people - see the page on my own hearing problems. Then we have to accept that we have to take whatever steps are appropriate to live with our disability. We have to develop new attitudes and coping strategies (see below) which accommodate our hearing loss. Only then can we move on to making the best of what life has to offer.

Influencing other people's attitudes to deafness and hearing loss

We don't only have to change our own attitudes. We have to try to change other people's attitudes too. This is easier said than done.

Outstanding questions on coping with hearing loss

  • There is always the problem of what to do if we have done everything we can to explain our needs, yet those around us seem to take no notice, either because they "forget" or because the priorities of the moment dwarf our particular needs.

  • Do we accept that we have no option but to look stupid because everyone else is reaching for a pencil / looking out of the window / laughing / or whatever, and we haven't heard what gave rise to it?

  • Or do we remind everyone of our needs? Having expressed them once, or maybe twice, it doesn't seem right to keep on about them, and quite likely there are other things happening that we would accept would take priority if only we were aware of them. For example if a child is whimpering, having just fallen over, it would clearly not be appropriate to insist that everyone's attention should be focussed on us.

  • Do we simply leave the room? That looks as if we are in a huff.

If you have any ideas, please share them.

Changing existing attitudes is always more difficult than stimulating fresh ones. Consequently I have found that new acquaintances seem to be more able to meet my hearing needs than longstanding friends and certain members of my family. This is because people who have known me for many years can't quite seem to understand that my hearing is now so much worse than it used to be. It can be very difficult indeed to make them appreciate that things really have taken such a turn for the worse that a new approach from them is urgently needed.

It takes a long time to explain all the issues, even assuming that the people around us are prepared to listen. One of my reasons for producing this website is the hope that it might be easier for other deaf people to refer those around them to web pages, rather than keeping on trying to explain.

Try to encourage normal hearers to look at the page about the needs of people with hearing loss. There is a full discussion on how they can help on another page. Also if they can be encouraged to learn something about hearing problems, it may surprise them and nudge them into doing more to be supportive.

Deaf people's rights and responsibilities

As deaf people, we have rights. We live in a time when equal opportunities for the disabled are high on the agenda. That should count in our favour, because, simply put, deafness is a disability. Just as wheelchair access in buildings is expected for those who can't manage steps, so we have a right to expect, for example, that suitably located seating is made available for us and that others speak in such a way that we are most likely to understand.

The onus of course is not entirely on others. We have responsibilities to do what we can ourselves. I suggest some suggestions on another page.

After acceptance, what next?

Deafness is an invisible disability, which people don't recognise unless they are told. Even the visible signal of a hearing aid or deaf badge, does not convey the extent of the hearing loss or how others can meet it.

So coping is a continuous process. On this website, I have put together all the ways of coping that I have learnt through years of deafness while living and working with people with normal hearing. I hope that these may help you.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.