The process of getting to know a partner can highlight your strengths as well as your insecurities. In the end, it’s all worthwhile to find that special someone who wants to share the journey with you through the ups and downs of life.
When living with hearing loss, our dating experiences bring about different challenges compared to those with normal hearing. Growing up, I was not aware of what these challenges could be until I experienced them firsthand. We all know communication is a key part in maintaining strong relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, and loved ones. What makes a romantic relationship different are the intimate moments between you and your partner.
Certain intimate moments can make communication difficult for those living with hearing loss.
A common situation involves pillow talk. For those with normal hearing, pillow talk is a transition from getting ready for bed to falling asleep. When I wear my hearing instruments and lie down, it is distracting to hear the constant noise of the pillow rubbing on the microphones. Then there’s the feedback loop, created when sound from the hearing aid reflects off the pillow back to the hearing aid. Conversations also tend to be soft-spoken, and if the lights are turned off, communication becomes almost impossible. To spin this moment into something more humorous, my partner and I do a last round of thoughts for the day before the lights are turned off and I turn off my hearing instruments for the night.
As a new cochlear implant user, it is unique for me to see how the challenges differ between wearing a cochlear implant versus a hearing aid. When cuddling, I hear feedback from my hearing aid because I am too close to my partner. However, on my cochlear implant side, my headpiece gets knocked off or the processor falls off my ear. I end up spending more time fidgeting and trying to place my processor back on. Eventually, I just take off one of my devices and lie on the side without a device. This is not ideal because I hear and understand better when I wear both hearing instruments rather than just one. My partner adjusts to the situation by making sure to speak clearly and that I’m looking at him.
Another intimate moment is kissing. Kissing can be sweet, passionate and romantic. However, in the beginning of a relationship, kissing can be awkward. I am usually upfront about my hearing loss, about my hearing instruments, and what exactly it means to me and to the person I am dating. But I can’t prepare for every situation. When kissing, it is common for my headpiece to get knocked off and for the whole processor to fall off my ear. All of a sudden, I can no longer hear and now I have to locate my processor. The next thing I know, we are both on the floor looking for the pieces of my processor. Usually I can find humor in the situation and we move on, but it can feel awkward to “hit pause” so I can hear again.
Dating has its wonderful moments and its challenging moments. When living with hearing loss, we encounter certain things differently than those with normal hearing. Despite the awkward encounters and inconveniences hearing loss may bring, I still would not trade it for anything. My hearing loss is a part of who I am and helped shape the person I am today. Hearing loss is what drove me to become an audiologist and to work with others living with hearing loss. My intimate moments may not look like the romantic scenes from the movies, but they are more real and special with the right person beside me.
Do you have any tips or tricks to keep your hearing instruments on and in place?