Updated: Aug 7
Hearing loss is a growing pandemic that is becoming more prevalent among young adults in recent times. It is no longer something that is relegated to people who with age are losing hearing or exceptionally with young adults. In a recent statistic, I came across It is estimated that at least 44 million adults aged 20 and older have hearing loss. (in the United States alone) That is a significant number of people.
I am well aware of the fact that someone losing their hearing loss in adulthood is very different from someone who has never had a full hearing capacity to begin with (which is what I am) It is an experience that requires a significant adjustment and I'd like to share some tips on what to do if you find that you are losing or have lost your hearing.
First of all, losing your hearing as an adult can be a very challenging and life-changing experience. My heart goes out to you and I am sending you a big hug. It is okay to be upset about it, but don't be upset about it for too long. Where there is life there is hope.
It is essential to remember that you're not on this journey alone. There are millions on this path with you and I hope this blog will be one of the many useful resources that can provide valuable advice, support, and insight for you as you are now a person with hearing loss (be it hard of hearing or being fully deaf)
Here are some nuggets of advice I have for you.
Understand your hearing loss:
If you have not already had an audiological assessment, I encourage you to have one done to understand the nature of your hearing loss. This equips you on how best to live your life going forward and where your gaps are. Knowing the specific type of hearing loss would most certainly empower you to make decisions that would make your life better going forward and what type of research you would need to do to ensure you are being informed appropriately. Also, this enables your audiologist to recommend the appropriate hearing device you will need. It's quite similar to getting prescription glasses once you have discovered your eyesight is no longer what it used to be.
If it's possible, I would encourage you to seek therapy/counseling or speak to a trusted friend to process the emotions around losing your hearing. Do not under any circumstances diminish the experience you are going through. Losing your hearing is huge. Even though there are benefits to losing your hearing, it's okay to acknowledge that it is a huge loss. You may no longer hear clearly some of your favorite sounds, or sounds you are used to are now being heard a bit differently (through hearing aids or cochlear implants) and it's okay to grieve that loss and know that better is coming. You may likely experience some emotions you are not sure how to deal with such as isolation, frustration, and anxiety. Counseling will help you process that in a healthy manner. It will also help you discover ways to build resilience and have a positive mindset. You may also need counseling to adjust to the reality of wearing hearing aids. I know I had to do it whilst switching from in-the-ear hearing aids to behind-the-ear hearing aids (which would make my hearing loss more visible and obvious) and I've been wearing hearing aids all my life.
Be Open to Hearing Devices:
The world of assistive devices (hearing aids, cochlear implants) has made significant strides thanks to technology in recent times to become more attractive and efficient. There are several options available for one to pick from depending on the nature of their hearing loss. We have waterproof hearing aids, Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids that double as earphones, and more powerful in-the-ear hearing aids (For those who want more discreet options) This would certainly help to maintain your quality of life as you had prior to your hearing loss and enhance your communication skills.
With hearing loss, you will need to be more intentional about how you communicate with others in various settings, both at work, at home, and in social settings. What worked for you in the past may not work for you anymore. You will need to find new styles and strategies to ensure you are able to hear people around you. I would also recommend you factor in "Listening fatigue" which is a real thing that a lot of individuals with hearing loss have to deal with. This is because your brain is working harder to communicate you will find that communication may be more energy consuming than usual. It's great plan to account for it and build more rest times into your communication strategy.
Find Like-minded Individuals:
There are tons of support groups for individuals who have similar experiences, as well as pages on Instagram of individuals who share their experience with hearing loss. Finding a community makes all the difference. It made a huge difference in how I approached and handled my hearing loss. A search of #hearingloss posts on Instagram is a great start.
Read Success Stories:
There's nothing like reading the stories of those who have that have overcome the challenge of being hearing impaired. There are a lot of famous and successful people who have hearing loss. Some of my favorites are Thomas Edison, Halle Berry, Whoopie Goldberg, Millie Bobby Brown and Bill Clinton. I have also been privileged to have networked with several successful individuals in the professional space who also have hearing loss and it has been encouraging. I would encourage you to look them up and be inspired!
Advocate for yourself:
The last and most important piece of advice I have for you is to advocate for yourself and speak up for your needs, especially in a professional environment. Being silent puts you at a disadvantage and you are not setting yourself up for success. I have found that people generally are more receptive and flexible once I communicate that I need extra accommodations. I don't always need it but it has definitely helped. In advocating for yourself you make the world a more inclusive place for those even coming behind you and make the path smoother for them.
In conclusion, whilst it may seem very uncertain and there are times you may feel lost. It is very possible to have a great quality of life with the necessary support, information, and most importantly a positive mindset. In my next post, I will talk about the benefits of actually being a person with hearing loss (Yes believe me there are benefits :D)
until next time