When I was first diagnosed with hearing loss, my family’s initial reaction was mild amusement. I received a lot of those, ‘I told you so’ comments, but the overall feeling was one of optimism.
When I came home with two hearing aids, the reaction was somewhat different.
I have three children and their ages range from young teen to adult. Each reacted differently to what they viewed as the “new me.” Physically I hadn’t changed – in fact my hearing aids, unless you look closely, are basically invisible – but something had.
My kids didn’t have to see my hearing aids, they know they were there and because of this fact, I was different. My youngest struggled with the new revelation the hardest. She took to either shouting at me or else whispering as quietly as possible. She also, accidentally on purpose, would hit them when giving me a hug or a kiss goodnight, knowing full well that not only was this a painful experience for daddy, but also a hazardous one for the hearing aids.
I sat her down and explained my hearing aids to her. I showed her the aids and how they worked, in a general sense. During these times it was sweetness and light. Until the next time I came in close proximity to her, then all bets would be off and the same behaviour would be exhibited once again.
Now, we are very close as a family and greatly value hugs, kisses and affection. But something had definitely changed. The hearing aids, my hearing aids had somehow caused a new dynamic to be instigated. I was at a complete loss. Asking politely did no good. Telling off proved worthless, as she would only say that she had forgotten.
“The hearing aids, my hearing aids had somehow caused a new dynamic to be instigated.”
In the end, it was time that altered her reactive behaviour. I couldn’t tell you when it changed, what day, not even month. I am just aware that things between us are back to normal, unless you count the fact, that my hearing loss is her number one go-to excuse.
“I told Daddy, but he mustn’t have heard me,” or “It’s not my fault you have hearing loss and I’m not being mean.”
My middle daughter who is at college and is very helpful around the house and is generally the first to help out, when it’s one of those family crises, which require ‘all hands on deck,’ exhibited a need to ignore the new super-improved Daddy. She was just as loving and helpful but steered clear of any mention of those things in my ears.
Once again, this took time to pass, maybe weeks or a month or two, but pass it did. These days she is back to her old self and includes my hearing loss in good-natured humorous anecdotes because trust me, I might have a great pair of hearing aids, but I still mishear plenty of things and this causes a lot of good-natured fun in our house.
Now, with my eldest child, who is an adult and at university, the change in behaviour was minimal. He showed signs of concern, but once he became aware that having the aids was a good thing, relaxed and went back to treating me simply as Dad. His adjustment period was probably a matter of days. Unlike his sisters, who both took considerably longer to come to terms with the new adjustment.
“He showed signs of concern, but once he became aware that having the aids was a good thing, relaxed and went back to treating me simply as Dad.”
When I realized my children acted differently to me as a “dad with hearing aids,” I was completely confused and felt hurt. I mean, how could my own children not see that I was the one in need of support? It made no sense to me. It wasn’t until I really thought things through and began to ask myself some serious questions that things began to fall into place.
I knew that my relationship with my children was solid and based on love, as we really were and indeed are a close-knit family. So, I knew it wasn’t our relationship that was at fault, so what was it? To truly understand, I had to turn my attention inward, on myself.
When I first discovered that I had hearing loss, it was a blow. I felt somehow that I was less than I was before. It made me feel immensely vulnerable, not to mention angry. I realised that the feelings and issues I was going through were nothing short of grieving for the loss of my hearing. It sounds foolish, but nevertheless, it is a recognised part of the condition of hearing loss, that following diagnosis, there is often a bereavement period with all of its associated grief issues.
Once I saw these feelings and emotions for what they were, it struck me that my family must also be experiencing something akin to the grief I was now having to deal with. When I thought about it, they were even exhibiting classics symptoms of the grieving process. There really was no difference at the heart of things, merely differences in how each of us dealt with our feelings.
I tended to make a joke of everything. In fact, I was so light-hearted during my initial diagnosis that my audiologist pulled me up about it, in a very nice and gentle manner. But she did insist that I was to take the news seriously, as it was something which was going to change my life. I had a lifelong habit of making jokes to cover moments of uncomfortable emotion.
Once I was aware of why my children were acting so out of character, it was easy to cut them some slack. I made a point of not talking endlessly about my deafness or my hearing aids and instead tried to focus on being as much of my old self as was possible at the time. This worked, because as I became less stressed about the whole situation, so too did my kids.
The change as I mentioned earlier was very subtle, so subtle in fact, that I have no idea when things returned to normal, but return they did. Any of us who have ever experienced bereavement and the associated feelings of loss that go with it will understand that at first, you feel as if nothing will ever be the same again. There is an expectation that life cannot go on. A feeling of hopelessness prevents us from the understanding that time has an amazing healing quality.
“I made a point of not talking endlessly about my deafness or my hearing aids and instead tried to focus on being as much of my old self as was possible at the time.”
So you see, it wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do, that changed the minds and emotions of my children, it was simply the passage of time and the deeper unconscious understanding that our family foundation was still a solid one. That we had weathered another of those family storms, which arrive unexpectedly from time to time.
My advice to you, should you find yourself in the same or similar situation, concerning your own recent diagnosis of hearing loss, is really quite simple. Be kind to yourself and to those around you. Try to remember that it isn’t termed hearing loss without reason. Bear in mind that bereavement and the sense of grieving is something felt by all of those who care and that each person, regardless of age will experience this process in their own way.
“Be kind to yourself and to those around you.”
We are all unique individuals and it is only by remembering this fact, that we can allow others to truly be themselves. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t sit down with relatives and friends and explain your hearing loss, because of course this is a good idea. What in my personal opinion and experience tells me not to do, is to make too big an issue out of it. The more you call attention to the change, the more others are made aware of the difference in who they are scared you have now become.
Yes, there are changes, but facing them with optimism will get you through the early stages of confusion and bring you to better days. I went through the five stages of grief, from initial denial that anything was wrong with my hearing, to anger. I remember being so angry, it wasn’t fair, why me? Yes, even bargaining. I recall thinking that if only my hearing would come back, I wouldn’t take it for granted again.
This gave into depression. I still can clearly remember not wanting to speak on the phone or go out, because I couldn’t hear properly. First, it was because I had been diagnosed, but was waiting for my hearing aids and then it was because of the hearing aids making the world sound so different. As in classic grief, next came acceptance. I began to see that my life was good since being given my hearing aids.
These days I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis. Why? Well, I think it was because of the fact that I had been struggling to hear for so many years and all that time denying it.
“These days I’m happier than I was before my diagnosis.”
Having a diagnosis, being given hearing aids and knowing that I have hearing loss, for me has been a huge positive in my life. The knowledge of being deaf has given strength to me and this is something which I honestly hope is contagious because I would very much like the knowledge that every other person with hearing loss could feel as good as I do.