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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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’
Despite the different stressors, there are a lot of ways we can take a much-needed break to unwind and/or cope.
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 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.
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.
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!”
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!
If you meet someone with hearing loss, there are things you can do to help ease some of our stressors: