Question: What is the best way to help someone who is in denial regarding their hearing loss? The statement, “You need to get hearing aids” just doesn’t work!—J. D.
Answer: It sounds to me that the real question you are asking is, “How do I knock some sense into a hard of hearing person so he will properly deal with his hearing loss instead of denying he has one?”
The short answer is, “You can’t!”
When someone tells a hard of hearing person that he has a hearing loss, it shocks him to realize that his body is not “normal” or perfect anymore. He does not want his neat little world upset, nor does he want to think he is less than normal, so a defense mechanism kicks in-denial. Studies reveal that hard of hearing people continue to deny their hearing losses for an average of seven years! Unfortunately, hard of hearing people generally keep on denying they have a hearing loss until something “big” happens that jolts them back to reality.
It is almost impossible to get through to a person in denial. This is tragic as we could save them a lot of heartache and pain-but they won’t listen. Consequently, they have to learn the hard way.
As long as a hard of hearing person is in denial (and this is very important to understand), they are not ready to accept any help. Why should they? There is nothing wrong with their hearing-and since there is nothing wrong, they don’t need any help from us or hearing aids or anything else!
That is why, until a hard of hearing person reaches the acceptance stage, he typically won’t get (or wear) a hearing aid. He is just not psychologically ready to wear one yet. If a spouse nags him enough, he will get a hearing aid to get her off his back. This ploy is not often successful as he will give it a cursory trial, find some excuse for not wearing it and then dump it in the dresser drawer to be forever buried.
Not until the pain of reality becomes greater than the pain of denial, will he have any real incentive to change. This could involve losing a job or making a mistake that costs him a lot of money.
When a person is in denial about his hearing loss and refuses to listen to us, we have to be firm with him. We mustn’t make things easy for him regarding his hearing loss. We need to let him make some costly mistakes that will jolt him to reality. At the same time, we need to stand ready to help him when he comes to his senses. However, until then, it’s largely a waste of time.
Even after a hard of hearing person breaks out of the denial stage, he is not still not yet ready for all the coping strategies he can use to make his life easier. He still has to work through the bargaining stage, and when that doesn’t work, the anger stage. He soon finds that getting mad doesn’t work either, so he gets depressed. Some people remain in the depression stage for years (just like many do in the denial stage).
It is only when a hard of hearing person finally decides to do something about his depression that he slowly begins to see that life, even as a hard of hearing person, is worthwhile living after all.
Then, and only then, is he really willing to do what it takes in order to hear again. He has finally reached the acceptance stage. It is here that he will really give hearing aids a fair trial. It is here that he will read what he can about coping skills. It is here that he will join one of the hearing loss support groups such as Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA), SayWhat Club (SWC) or Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA).
You too, will notice a difference in him. The spring will be back in his steps and you will once again see the twinkle in his eyes!
If you or someone you know needs help with this process, read the short book called, “Grieving for Your Hearing Loss-The Rocky Road from Denial to Acceptance.” This book has helped many people deal with their hearing loss and regain their zest for life.