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Hearing loss and stress: Stress Awareness Month

hearing loss and stress
While there are many benefits to hearing loss, there can also be quite a few stressors. For Stress Awareness Month this April, we address hearing loss and stress.

Hearing Loss and Stress

Every single person who has hearing loss experience their own unique stressors. All of us have different levels of hearing, technology, communication methods/languages, accommodations, etc. All these things play a major role when it comes to specific stressors. Therefore, not every person with hearing loss will experience every single one of these stressors. We all cope and deal with them differently too. However, there are some stressors that are more common.

Read more: Hearing loss can be stressful. Here’s how to manage it.

Listening and/or Visual Fatigue

For individuals who have a hearing loss but still rely on hearing with or without hearing assistive technology, listening requires more energy than most realize. People who rely on sign language and/or captioning can also experience visual fatigue from having to exert more energy paying attention with their eyes. Both forms of fatigue can undoubtedly cause stress. People can feel burnt out and exhausted after engaging in long hours of hearing/seeing.


Many people with hearing loss also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This can cause stress due to how it interferes with one’s concentration, sleep, etc.  There are some incredibly helpful ways to cope with this, including sound therapy, meditation, hearing technology and other self-care accommodations listed below.

Read more: How my hearing aids have helped my tinnitus

Communication Barriers/Accessibility

It’s no surprise that people with hearing loss come across multiple communication barriers and accessibility concerns as they navigate a hearing world. For those who rely on sign language, interpreters aren’t always present when they should be. Sometimes there’s simply no access to them. In other cases, dealing with people who aren’t as understanding or accommodating can be more challenging. People with hearing loss must spend more time and energy making sure that there will be access ahead of time. This all causes stress. Now with masking, our communication barriers are even greater, particularly for those of us who lipread.

Background Noise/Sensory Overload

Some people with hearing loss also experience increased stress in environments where there is a significant amount of background noise. Hearing above that noise a challenge. For some people it can also feel like sensory overload. This can be the case especially if they have amplification devices or are trying to pay attention to more than one person.

Processing Delays

We may experience a delay after someone has finished talking. Whether it’s registering the sound through our devices, reading lips, or relying on or a captioner or interpreter, we need time to process.


People with hearing loss report higher rates of bullying and abuse. This was the subject of my recent honors thesis. While unfortunate, this is just another factor that can lead to stress among those with hearing loss.

Establishing a Deaf Identity

Many people are stressed as they establish a deaf Identity. Sometimes it can be a difficult process for individuals because of different stigmas or feeling like they’re “in between” both the hearing world and the deaf world.

Read More: What is ‘Deaf Gain’ and ‘Deaf Identity’

Managing Stress with Hearing Loss

stress and hearing loss

Despite the different stressors, there are a lot of ways we can take a much-needed break to unwind and/or cope.

Ears-Off Time

This is something I’ve particularly found a large amount of value in since I started graduate school and had to listen to three-hour lectures back-to-back for six hours. I never realized until then the amount of exhaustion listening fatigue can cause. The minute I got in my car and got home, I unplugged from my hearing aids to give both my ears and my brain a break.

Prepare When You Can

Prepare in advance whenever possible. This can include making sure you have extra hearing aid batteries and that the sound controls on your hearing assistive devices and/or technology are set, communicating with the other person/company to make sure an interpreter or captions is present if needed, knowing the environment/set-up ahead of time, etc. Although it might seem like more extra work, it can relieve the anxiety of the unknown and ensure that you’re prepared on your end to tackle the challenges that might arise.


For stressors related to hearing loss in a work/school environment, speak with the Disabilities office or HR about accommodations or any issues you’re having with or without them.

Use Visual Modes of Communication

Visual modes of communication such as sign language, text-to-speech apps, captioning apps, captioners, pen and paper, or boogie board, etc. can all be useful. Having these in your back pocket can be a great life-saver.

Have a Back-Up Plan

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a situation where the captioner/interpreter didn’t show, and I was left understanding nothing. I quickly learned to have back up captioning apps, microphones, etc. in case the planned services fell through.


This is a huge one! Self-care is different for every single person. However, for at least 30 minutes to an hour a day, do something for YOU! Whether it’s exercising, blaring music, journaling, or watching a favorite show, take that time to unwind. This is not only true for hearing loss but everyday stressors as well. We all have general stress and busy lives. When you pair “hearing loss stress” with that, you’re adding to your stress load. This makes it all the more imperative to take care of your mind and body.

“For at least 30 minutes to an hour a day, do something for YOU!”

Be Patient with Yourself, Know Your Worth, and Be Proud of Your Hearing Loss

Yes, I know this can be easier said than done! However, once you own your hearing loss and realize that it’s such a unique part of you that doesn’t define you, dealing with people who are ignorant or rude becomes a lot easier. Becoming comfortable with your hearing loss also enables you to know what you need and how to prepare. Don’t be afraid to advocate!

Read More: Hearing loss can be stressful. Here’s how to manage it.

To the Hearing Community

If you meet someone with hearing loss, there are things you can do to help ease some of our stressors:

  • Please be patient! If we don’t respond, we may not be ignoring you. We just didn’t hear you. Or we may need a second or two after you finish speaking to register in our brain what was said.
  • We may also need you to repeat yourself a few times. As frustrating as we know it can be on your end to do so, it’s also incredibly frustrating for us to not be able to hear and have to ask for repetition multiple times. Your understanding can ease a lot of stress for both of us.
  • Ask people with hearing loss what they need. It can be hard for us in the heat of the moment to ask for what we need! Asking us can ease that stress, remind us, and make us feel included.
  • Make your company/events accessible. You can make your events and spaces accessible and inclusive by automatically planning to have captions on videos, Zoom meetings, etc. This will help you and those with hearing loss ease a lot of stress on both ends with less hassle at the time of the event.
  • Learn basic sign language for people who sign. You don’t need to be an expert in sign language to communicate with those of us who sign. Just pick up a few general signs that can make it easier for communication when situations arise. Otherwise, be willing to write back and forth or text if sign language is unavailable. These efforts all add up.
Author Details
Hi, my name is Danielle! I’m an Psy.D. graduate psychology student with an immense passion for writing and helping and inspiring others in any way I can. I am an anti-bullying and mental health advocate, blogger, and public speaker through my personal blog and social media campaign, “Compassionately Inspired”. I was born with a severe conductive hearing loss and hope to inspire others both in the hard of hearing and deaf community as well as the hearing community. “Everybody has a story”; that’s my motto and I hope my stories inspire you in one way or another.