Hearing Loss and Intimacy

One of my writing instructors stated that if you you’re going to write about love and intimacy, you should be able to do it without mentioning body parts. A writer’s job is to use the right words to make readers visualize and feel. I’m keeping these thoughts in mind as I talk about this delicate subject. I promise to keep this column’s G-rating. If you are faint of heart, don’t stop reading. Attention hearing dogs, no need to cover your eyes with your paws.

My nineteenth wedding anniversary just rolled around, and I asked my husband what he felt was the biggest obstacle he faced being married to someone with hearing loss. “I know this is going to sound silly,” he said, “but I can’t tell you I love you in any kind of romantic, sexy way, even when we’re alone or even during our most intimate moments.” He went on to tell me he’s tried, but it comes down to this: he has to say those special, three little words louder than Romeo would and shouting I love you, loses its luster. Alas, if my hearing aids are out, I often don’t hear him and must ask him to repeat.

Wow! I didn’t know whether to laugh to cry. So being an optimist, I laughed. It wasn’t that I hadn’t sensed the problem. He’s hinted at it. I just didn’t expect him to say that hearing during our love moments was his biggest problem with my hearing loss. I really thought he’d hit on the times when we argued because I thought I heard one thing when he really said another. Or when I wanted to stay home because I was too exhausted to face an evening in noisy restaurant, struggling to hear. I expected him to bring up my reluctance to travel because of what it means: packing the hearing equipment and him dealing with my anxiety in airports and rail stations because I can’t hear announcements. And I really believed he was going to talk about the dark period I went through with panic attacks and coping issues about my hearing loss. I figured we were always okay in the intimacy department. And we are. Unless you count the fact that I don’t hear the dearest man on the planet, whispering words of love to me.

Hearing and intimacy is a problem faced by many people with hearing loss. Some folks might wonder what to do with the hearing aids when the mood strikes; whether to leave them in or take them out. Hearing aids buzz and whistle if you lay on your side. Sweat dripping on them from the heat of the moment can cause problems, hearing aids do not operate when wet. Like most people, I take my hearing aids off at night for sleep, and for those other special moments, thus leaving me with a grand hearing-loss canyon.

My husband knew of my hearing loss when he married me. He understood it would worsen. He didn’t mind and said that my hearing loss made me different, special even. We often exchange greeting cards for anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. A while back, he gave me a card with red sparkling letters that said: The Heart Always Finds Its Way. I’ve kept the card as a reminder of what’s important. As my husband and I grow old together, we have joint and back pains, and the inability to go dancing and be up at the crack of dawn like we did when we were younger. We’ve faced bouts of flu, pneumonia, and stomach issues together. We’ve lost family members and friends to old age and disease. “For better or for worse. In sickness and in health,” we once said to each other. We meant those sacred words.

So, our hearts did find a way. Even though I can’t hear well any more, I know my husband loves me more than anything. That’s my special anniversary gift from him, knowing he’ll always be there for me no matter what. Though I no longer hear his words of love, I see them in his eyes, every time he looks at me. Happy Anniversary, Darling. I hope we have many, many more years together.