A few years ago, I was stunned and overwhelmed by a sudden major hearing loss. It totally upset my life. Then, I noticed that my social connections began to change in many ways. Hearing loss affected my relationships!
My coworkers and some of my friends distanced themselves. The comments that I was not my “old self” were certainly correct. Did I come across as needy and difficult? I did not give it much thought at that time. But, looking back, how should people have known better? I never explained my new challenges to them.
Family members also saw me struggle. After the initial shock, I became angry and frustrated. I felt alone. I was tortured by tinnitus. And why had the world become so incredibly loud? Nothing was fun anymore. I had become difficult to live with.
There was actually plenty of evidence that people did care.
I had been sent printed articles. I had been sent links to information on devices, services and resources for those with hearing loss. I received emails and lunch invitations. Yet, I was pretty resistant to suggestions or words of comfort. By and by, people grew tired and invested less and less energy trying to support me.
My hearing loss and its challenges even took a toll on my closest relationships.
One day my husband mentioned that he did not quite understand what pained me so. He felt that we needed to find people who could understand. He said “We!” He included himself in the issue. Some friends and family members had also expressed their concern to him. This is when I realized that my hearing loss was not all about me. It was also a lot about others.
There was no shame in admitting that I needed help.
Many communities and places of worship offer support groups for various needs. However, “we” became acquainted with the local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Here, I met indeed people who could relate. I learned that I was truly no longer my “old self.” Hearing loss was now a part of my life forever. To heal and to avoid isolation, I needed to keep my social network alive. For that to happen, I had to become a better and honest communicator.
Ultimately, meeting peers with hearing challenges far more serious than my own made me focus outward, onto others. I wanted to help people the way I had been helped. This became the new mission for my life. I try to pay forward what I had to learn the hard way.
In the end, I hope to “get by with a little help from my friends.” (Beatles)
I was grateful for my husband’s intervention. Obviously, I was not thinking straight. I shut people out at a time when I needed them the most. I lost a huge portion of my excellent hearing, but I did not want to also lose those who truly cared. Every day, I am thankful that they had more patience with me than I had with myself. I am grateful that they did not abandon me on my rocky journey into the World of Hearing Loss and pray that they continue to walk with me.