It’s a funny thing to think you have complete control of a situation. Then the wind is knocked out of your sails in such a way that you realize you really are at the whim of so much more than you can possibly hope to manage.
After my sudden hearing loss, my once perfect left ear is now classified as moderate/severe hearing loss. I have severe hearing loss in my right ear. I wear Phonak hearing aids on both. These three years have been turbulent, with ups, downs, forward steps, backwards steps and some giant circular loop de loops that have resulted in times of real frustration and anguish.
I’ve come to realize is that as resilient as I thought I was at the time of my hearing loss, and as much as I told myself I “had it under control,” things were far, far from okay and far from being “under control.” I still don’t know why my hearing loss happened, which adds another layer of frustration. I continue to have fluctuations which result in my left ear almost completely dropping out. This happens three to four times a year. Each time I receive steroid treatments via injection in the ear to try and bring it back. Each time I wonder whether this will be the time that it doesn’t come back. So far, each time it has. One day, it won’t. What I have learned is that in these times of fluctuation and uncertainty, I am not okay.
“What I have learned is that in these times of fluctuation and uncertainty, I am not okay.”
I have not been able to develop the skills and coping mechanisms to handle the absolutely terrifying possibility that things might get harder than they already are. I may need to sacrifice more of the things that I enjoy, compromising even more. In good times, when my hearing is at my accepted base level, I can cope. When it goes, I cannot.
This journey has led me to realize something quite profound. I needed a head doctor to go with my ear doctors.
Admitting to myself that my mental health was a concern was a scary and confronting truth. Now that I’ve done it, I realize it is something that I should have explored a long time ago. I had a plan with my ENT for what we would do physically if my hearing changed. I had a plan with my audiologist for what we would technologically if my hearing changed. What I didn’t have was a plan mentally for what I would do if my hearing changed.
“I had a plan with my ENT for what we would do physically if my hearing changed. I had a plan with my audiologist for what we would technologically if my hearing changed. What I didn’t have was a plan mentally for what I would do if my hearing changed.”
Taking the first few steps and opening up to my doctor about how I was feeling was hard, but it was only hard in the moments building up to that appointment. That first conversation with my doctor was surprisingly easy. We had an open, honest conversation about my feelings and experiences. Understanding my situation allowed my doctor to pair me with a psychologist who works heavily within not just those with hearing impairments, but also with LGBT individuals. It’s early but I am already confident in his ability to help me through anxiety surrounding my hearing loss. I’m having difficulty adjusting to the impacts of a dramatic change in my life. I am working through an “adjustment disorder.” Being able to put a name on it helps with understanding why I’m feeling the way I am.
Read more: The Month I Suddenly Went Deaf
It’s important to accept change. What is normal today might not be normal in two years. When I was first dealing with my hearing loss, I thought I was okay. Possibly at that time, I was. Today, living with hearing loss for three years, I’ve realized I’m not that okay. But you know what? That’s okay too.
How do you cope with your hearing loss?