Meandering Through A Hearing World

Strategies for Couples with Hearing Loss

I listened with interest to Joan Haber’s excellent presentation titled Strategies for Couples with Hearing loss. Right away, it was clear that Joan was an expert on this very important topic. She has suffered from hearing loss since her twenties, and she has worn hearing aids, and now, sports cochlear implants. In 2014, her husband was diagnosed with hearing loss and he wears hearing aids. This couple is no stranger to the difficulties that we, in the hearing loss community, face when trying to communicate with our partners.

Joan began her talk by saying that it is important to understand the undercurrents of the relationship between you and your partner. We cannot always blame poor communication on hearing loss. Often personalities and other issues are involved. For instance, a partner who is controlling or passive aggressive can change the dynamics of conversation. Joan believes that it is important to address psychological issues in a relationship before establishing better communication techniques.

Joan said that those suffering from hearing loss should understand their communication needs. Some people with hearing loss require a quiet spot, a place where they can have and give their partner their full attention. Always wear your hearing devices, she said. In fact, you should view your implant or your hearing aids as your friend. If needed, have peripheral hearing devices ready. There are apps for smart phones that can act as your personal CART assistant. AVA and Otter.AI were mentioned. Several people attending the session claimed to have great results with these apps. Ultimately, Joan said that we should be clear and assertive when stating your hearing needs to your partner. Most of all, maintain a sense of humor.

Joan went on to say that we should manage our expectations. Chances are we are not going to hear normally. Given, it is wise to establish ground rules. Let your partner know if they are not communicating with you properly. Joan suggested that it is stressful for your partner if you continually have to ask them to repeat. On the other hand, no one likes it when their partner says, “Forget it, or it’s not important.”

When conversing, give your hearing partner your full attention. In speaking with her husband, Joan will often say, “Sam, are ready? I’m going to say something.” Joan spoke of the fine line between raising your voice loud enough for your partner to hear and shouting. Loud voices often inhibit hearing.

Joan mentioned that rapid conversation is difficult to follow, thus making it impossible to know when the topic has changed. Couples need to come up their own way of dealing with this. Sometimes it is best to announce to your partner that everyone is talking about something else.

Joan stated that wearing a clear mask helps a person with hearing loss to read lips, thus improving good communication with your partner. Clear masks can be purchased from Safe N Clear. Do a Google search to find other such companies.

Since Joan and her husband both suffer from hearing loss, they take advantage of hearing technology that works with each other’s devices. She wears a mini-mic that is compatible with her husband’s hearing aids and he uses devices that work with her cochlear implant. Mini mics are great when out in a restaurant because they help reduce background noise.

Good and solid communication is very important if a relationship is to flourish. In this informative talk, I learned that being open and honest about what helps me hear will make me a better partner. Using technology is key to achieving such a goal. It takes patience, kindness, and consideration when speaking with someone with hearing loss. It is important to be prepared when speaking to your partner. All of these lessons can help on our journey as we meander through the hearing world.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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