If you've noticed your loved one has hearing loss, it doesn't necessarily mean he or she is ready to get hearing aids. In fact, as research shows, it takes people, on average, about seven years to get hearing aids after realizing they have hearing loss. But your support can help your loved one move closer toward acceptance of his or her hearing loss.
Here's some information about the grief and acceptance process surrounding hearing loss and how to assess weather your loved one is ready for hearing aids:
Grieving hearing loss
As hearing health care experts know, many people with hearing loss go through the recognized stages of grief. After all, as blogger Madison - who is training to be a hearing instrument specialist - said in a recent post on her blog, In My Good Ear: "We are only born with five senses, and no bones about it, to lose one of them partially or completely can be traumatic."
Though Madison doesn't have hearing loss, she experienced grief at the sudden death of her fiancé in 2009, so she empathizes with those who are grieving the loss or reduced function of one of their most important senses. Many people see hearing loss as the loss of both youth and capability, though it doesn't have to be either.
Below are the five stages of grief and how they apply to hearing loss and one's readiness to try hearing aids. It's important to know that not everyone grieves the same way, goes through the stages in order or even experiences all stages of grief.
If your loved one contends that the problem is that everyone else mumbles or speaks too softly, not that he or she has hearing loss, then your loved one is likely in denial about hearing loss. He or she is not ready to try hearing aids.
Sometimes, people with hearing loss see an audiologist - maybe at the urging of a family member - but they really aren't ready to find a hearing aid that works for them. Someone who is angry might say, "I don't need a hearing aid; I just need a cure."
Someone who is in the bargaining stage of grief might realize that he or she has hearing loss, but say, "It's not bad enough yet. When my hearing loss gets really bad, I'll get hearing aids." Usually, someone in the bargaining stage of hearing loss grieving is searching for excuses and seeking to postpone treatment.
When someone is no longer able to deny his or her hearing loss, has run out of excuses for bargaining and is too tired to feel angry, he or she might sink into depression. People who are depressed about their hearing loss might increasingly isolate themselves from others. Your loved one who is depressed may say, "I'm not having lunch with my friends anymore - I can never hear what they say anyway. What's the point?" Anxiety can also accompany depression, as once normal events like answering the phone or going to the grocery store become very difficult and stressful for someone who has a hard time hearing.
People are not ready to try hearing aids until they have come to terms with their hearing loss. Acceptance varies from person to person, and could take only a week or even a few years. The important thing to know is that you can and should express your support for your loved one throughout his or her grieving process, but know that until he or she has decided to accept the loss, that person is not yet ready to be fully committed to trying hearing aids or other assistive listening devices.
As blogger Madison said, people have to realize one simple truth: "Your new reality doesn't have to be a worse reality."
Helping your loved one cope
Shanna Groves, the famous blogger behind Lipreading Mom, wrote in a December 2012 guest blog post with Motherhood Moment that she used writing to cope with her grief:
"I experienced denial at first, followed by shock, anger, depression and eventual acceptance," Groves wrote. "Blogging about this kind of loss was therapeutic in that I wasn't keeping these emotions bottled up. As I wrote, I processed my feelings and attempted to understand them."
Until your loved one is ready for hearing aids, you can help him or her cope with hearing loss by:
- Encouraging that person to write or talk about his or her feelings.
- Modeling positive thinking.
- Taking him or her on an outing to enjoy activities that don't need hearing, such as visiting an art museum or strolling in a botanical garden.
- Listening to and validating your loved one's concerns and frustrations.