Meandering Through the Hearing World

The Psychology of Hearing Loss

The Hearing Loss Association of America hosted a Webinar titled: The Psychology of Hearing Loss. Don Doherty was the presenter. Don is retired from the Office of Veteran Affairs where he served as a training specialist for the National Chaplain Training Center. He has worn hearing aids since 1970. In 2000, he received a cochlear implant.


Don spoke about hearing loss as a multidimensional problem. He went over how our natural hearing systems work and what happens to those systems when hearing loss occurs. He mentioned that hearing loss occurs after trauma, and that sometimes, it begins gradually and worsens with age. Individuals who are born deaf or those who suffer from hearing loss growing up face different problems from adults with age-related hearing loss, hearing loss as a result of trauma, medication, or sudden hearing loss.


When speaking about the psychological issues, Don noted that how we react to our hearing loss depends on our personality and whether we are optimistic or pessimistic. Our reactions to to hearing loss is dependent on the type and severity of that loss, age of onset, personality, and the ability to adapt to change. Those suffering from hearing loss might have coping issues, emotional issues, identity issues, and issues interacting with others. 


Don talked about various psychological theories and related them to hearing loss. For instance, Dr. Kubler-Ross’s theory which maps how cancer patients go through the stages of isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can be applied to anyone with hearing loss. 


Socially, hearing loss affects relationships and all communications that we have with individuals and groups. Individuals with hearing loss must learn to let embarrassment go. There will be bad hearing days. There will be days when even the best technology will fail. Staying active and involved is key. Don suggested that your audiologist and your family are your friends when it comes to hearing loss. 


Don mentioned that young children and teenagers face many hearing loss issues. Often the responsibility for helping a child or teenager cope falls on the parents and teachers of those children. He spoke of the deep psychological affects hearing loss can have on children and teens as their self-esteem and self-image might be greatly damaged by their hearing loss. 


Anyone suffering from hearing loss needs skills to adapt to hearing loss. Support groups help some individuals. Hearing assistive technology allows individuals to function independently. Being flexible and being able to adjust to a new role is key in one’s acceptance of hearing loss. For some, hearing loss may have led to a change in employment or a change in a relationship thus leaving an individual with a lot to cope with. 


Don also reminded us that adjusting to hearing aids and implants takes time and a rehab period is needed. Your hearing expectations also play a role. At some point, we have to recognize and accept that even the best of equipment won’t cure hearing loss. 


I learned much from this one hour lecture. Coping with hearing loss can be difficult and not easy. It is disheartening to come to the realization that your hearing loss can’t be cured. Yet, we have to remain positive and upbeat if we are going to survive in this world without normal hearing.

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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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