by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A hard of hearing wife wrote:
I loved your ‘Dear Family’ letter on dealing with my hearing loss. I cried after I read it because it hit the nail right on the head! My husband is terrible (regarding my hearing loss) and I’m hoping this will help! I’m getting up the courage to give it to him this week.
Note: anyone can access this “Dear Family” letter through the short article Effective Communication in the Family. It explains some easy communication tips so that you can more easily converse with your loved ones.
I encouraged this lady to give this letter to her husband. A few days later she wrote:
I just wanted to tell you that I gave the ‘Dear Family’ letter to my husband last night. (It was easier than I thought.) He even apologized and told me that hearing is just something he’s taken for granted and always forgets that I can’t hear. Let’s hope things will improve now.
I hope things will improve for you too. However, I must caution you it won’t come all at once. You will have to keep on reminding him again and again that you can’t hear, and refer him to the “Dear Family” letter and the specific points he is breaking.
This is because even if he really wants to meet your needs, he often will forget because communication habits are so deeply ingrained. It will take a lot of effort on his part to form new communication habits. However, with your help he can learn the proper ways of effectively talking with you.
This same lady also lamented:
My hearing loss began about ten years ago. I can’t imagine what I’m going to go through if I go completely deaf. I think when a person is diagnosed with a hearing loss, they should also prescribe counseling for them and their families, besides just fitting them with hearing aids! It would save us from a lot of torment and depression. I’ve been laughed at, made fun of, ignored at gatherings, and yelled at because I couldn’t understand what someone was saying.
What you are saying is absolutely true. Hard of hearing people, and their families, do indeed need counseling—but they seldom get it. Part of the blame lies with the audiologists for not taking the time to do the necessary counseling, but part of the blame lies with hard of hearing people and their families who do not think they need such training, so won’t come to sessions put on by their audiologists. I’ve talked to some audiologists who are discouraged because they prepare information for these sessions, and then their clients don’t show up.
This lady concluded with the observation:
As your hearing ability continues to drop, people assume your IQ drops with it.
Unfortunately, what you say is too often true. Therefore, we have to show people that it is not true—that we have just lost our hearing, not our brains. The way we do this is to be proactive and tell people we have a hearing loss, then explain what we need them to do so we can hear and understand them.
This way they will know it is our ears and not our IQ that has gone south. However, if we bluff (pretend to hear and understand when we don’t), can you blame people for thinking the elevator stopped one floor short of the penthouse?