The world around us is predominantly hearing. To those of us who are deaf and hard of hearing, this concept can feel all too real at times. This can lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety. I’ve compiled a list of the top five ways hearing loss can lead to anxiety, and then tips for coping.
Asking someone to repeat themselves can feel incredibly frustrating and overwhelming, both for the hearing person and the hard of hearing/deaf person. Sometimes hearing people will not understand why someone who is hard of hearing continuously asks for repetition. This can leave the hard of hearing person feeling misunderstood. Not being able to hear or understand can also be incredibly frustrating in and of itself.
Sometimes with hearing loss, even if we can hear sound, we miss certain words or phrases when someone talks at a rapid pace. For instance, when someone has hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or other hearing assistive technology, sound must travel through that device to our ears before the sound can be fully processed.
“The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier,” says the NIDIC. “The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.”
In other words, sounds that seem like everyday sounds to some can take longer to register with someone who has hearing technology. If a person is talking fast, the hearing device can only register so many sounds at once. Certain words or phrases may be completely missed or unregistered.
In today’s fast-paced society, we walk by people and say “Hi” or “How are you?” However, someone with a hearing loss may not even realize that someone has said something to them. This can cause the other person to feel as if if you’re ignoring them or being rude when we, in fact, didn’t even hear it.
Fortunately, with the rise and advances in hearing assistive technology, being able to communicate and interact in groups with a hearing loss can be easier. But whether or not you have this technology, trying to keep up in a group can be a challenge. Someone with hearing loss may use visual cues and lipreading to help them understand what people are saying. It is usually helpful for us to be able to look directly at the person who is speaking to us. However, in a group, this can be harder especially when you have multiple people speaking at once. This can lead to us missing some of what people are saying.
Some people with hearing loss may be okay with crowds or may not mind loud noises. This can be a major stressor for others, however. In a large crowd with a lot of background noise, it can be overbearing and challenging to have a conversation.
While all of these factors can create a certain amount of stress and anxiety for individuals with hearing loss, there are ways to make them just a bit more bearable.
Easier said than done sometimes? Absolutely. It took me years to learn how to effectively advocate for what I needed. This is something I still learn every day. As an adult, I’ve learned that it’s definitely okay to let others know what you need in these certain situations. Sure, it can be frustrating having to ask someone to repeat themselves multiple times. But when you tell them why, they usually understand. Don’t hesitate to ask someone to face you when they’re speaking, or put closed captions on a video.
“As an adult, I’ve learned that it’s definitely okay to let others know what you need in these certain situations.”
I’ve used hearing aids and an FM system my entire life. Today, technology is advancing at an incredibly rapid pace that has greatly improved the use and functionality of these devices. Using an FM system or remote microphone such as the Phonak Roger, in a group setting, has been immensely helpful especially in a college classroom when there are multiple groups also talking.
Today, most hearing aids allow you to adjust the volume. Some hearing aids such as my own, are even compatible with your smartphone. This allows me to switch to certain settings that best suit the environment, like “restaurant” or “music.” This has been helpful when I am out with friends.
If you’re in a situation where the crowd or noise is just too overbearing, it’s okay to walk away for a few minutes. Give yourself a break from all of that sensory overload.