by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady explained:
I recently received your book “Help! I’m Losing My Hearing—What Do I Do Now?” My hearing loss has been a gradual loss—but now it is more pronounced. As your book points out, I am having difficulty telling people I am hard of hearing. I bluff all the time. It’s getting increasingly stressful.
I am trying to come to terms with this, but am very frustrated. I can’t understand why I can’t openly deal with it. I do wear hearing aids—they help, but not all the time.
Are there any “support groups” in my area I might be able to connect with?
The “Help” I’m Losing My Hearing” is a great little book, but I think you need to learn more about the basic reason why you bluff, then you will better understand how you can overcome this tendency. I cover this in detail in my latest book called Keys to Successfully Living with Your Hearing Loss. You would do well to study Key No. 2 in this manual until it becomes a part of you. It contains the real secret to overcoming bluffing.
Very briefly, we bluff because it meets our immediate need to appear normal, and to keep our anxiety over not hearing/not hearing correctly to a tolerable level because we don’t know the proper way to deal with our hearing losses.
To break this cycle, we need to analyze the long-term costs of this action vs. the short-term benefits. When we only focus on the short-term benefits and ignore the long-term costs, we continue to bluff to our detriment.
Furthermore we bluff because we are using what is called emotion-focused coping strategies rather than problem-focused coping strategies. You see, the goal of emotion-focused coping strategies isn’t to help us hear better, but to make us feel better. We need to focus on using problem-focused coping strategies that help us hear better.
Yet another reason for bluffing could be that over your lifetime you have subconsciously bought into the “stigma of hearing loss”—that having a hearing loss is somehow shameful, that you are less of a person if you have a hearing loss, that you are slow and stupid if you have a hearing loss, that hearing loss needs to be hidden away, and other such thoughts.
Now that you are hard of hearing yourself, you impute these same stigmatized feelings onto yourself. You don’t want anyone to know your “shameful” secret, so you try to hide your loss by bluffing. Because bluffing doesn’t work in the long run, your overall stress and anxiety levels build up. (These are some of the long-term costs that you ignore in the heat of the moment, but they ultimately make you feel worse, not better.)
Therefore, it is so much better to be up front about your hearing loss, and tell people what they need to do in order to help you communicate with them. This ultimately gives you confidence and your anxiety level drops. A wonderful by-product of this problem-focused coping behavior is that you not only hear better, but you actually feel better too!
As far as “support groups” go, the best “in person” support organization is the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). They have chapters in almost all states. You can find the various chapters here. Scroll down to the map of the USA and click on your state to find the chapter nearest you, then contact the leader of that chapter. They’ll be delighted to have you join them.
If there is no chapter near you, or if you want “support” more often than once a month, then you might want to try an on-line support group. The best one, bar none, is the SayWhatClub (SWC) To join the SWC click on the button for “Joining”. I’m a long time member of the SWC. We “meet” daily via emails.