When hearing loss hits one family member, it affects everyone in the family, not just the person with the hearing loss. Typically, the other family members miss the free and easy (and intimate) conversations they used to have. This saddens and sometimes angers them. Thus, just as for any other kind of loss, they too have to grieve this loss.
Be aware that when parents discover that their child has a hearing loss, it can hit them hard—almost as if their child had died. In fact, this is exactly what they may feel—that the “normal” hearing child they gave birth to has “died,” leaving in its place a “deaf” child. Thus, their grief is very real, and they need time to grieve.
Hearing loss in the family can hit children hard too. When sudden severe hearing loss hit the mother in one family, her young daughter had a tough time dealing with it. Her daughter remembers the day her mother was taken to the hospital. She sadly laments, “Mommy came back a different mommy. I lost my old mommy. This mommy can’t hear. I want my old Mommy back!” Because she did not have proper support, this little girl regressed. She became a bed wetter, and began to have temper tantrums. Thus, when hearing loss hits a family, never forget the needs of the children. They need an external support network to help them through their grief. This is because when parents are mired in their own grief, they cannot effectively help their children.
If hearing loss hits a spouse, and both do not grieve this loss of communication, it often causes a great strain in the marriage. In fact, unless they work through the grieving process, many marriages do not survive.
Part of the problem is that since both marriage partners need to grieve, they are not available to support each other. The person with the hearing loss is busy grieving and needs support. However, the person they turn too in their grief—their husband or wife—is also grieving, and thus cannot effectively help them. Thus, it is vital that both the hard of hearing spouse and the hearing spouse each have their own support networks to help them successfully navigate the grieving process.
This is what “Sally” and “Bill” did. Sally writes, “Bill and I couldn’t support each other in the beginning. We were weighed down by our sadness and grief. It was like we were sinking because the two of us together were too heavy for our boat. At this point, I turned to my friends, and Bill turned to his. As a result, we stayed together, but we really did have to go outside of our marriage for support.”