Accepting hearing loss one step at a time
Accepting hearing loss is above all an effort to accept personal limitations—a process that requires some time. It means accepting a break with the past and taking action in the present and toward the future. This is why the psychological issue must be at the heart of the situation.
The steps toward accepting hearing loss resemble those experienced when grieving. The path from signs to acceptance generally passes through five stages. However each person’s individual story can alter how long each stage lasts.
First stage: Ignorance
Hearing loss slowly and subtly becomes part of daily life. At the beginning, we don’t really notice it. Eventually certain changes start popping up.
We ask people to repeat what they said, we turn the volume up on the television, we can no longer hear people talking in another room, our family and friends comment on the signs, and so on. Hearing loss can be hard to notice.
Second stage: Refusal and denial
We don’t admit we have a problem, even if there are signs every day. We say that other people mumble or don’t speak clearly, or that the environment is too noisy. This stage is characterized by the denial of hearing loss and a lack of responsibility. We refuse to admit the problem.
Third stage: Despair
Many of us tend to isolate ourselves and have a low self-esteem. This stage is definitely one of the hardest. Social contact and outings become difficult and communication is exhausting and stressful. We are embarrassed and don’t want to tell people about the problem. Hearing loss is still a taboo topic, and we suffer from feeling powerless.
Fourth stage: Detachment
Due to the many changes affecting our daily life, whether they be changing our social contact, our relationship to our environment or our safety—in short, our quality of life—we slowly realize that there is a concrete problem that needs to be resolved.
Detachment is a transition stage bringing us closer to acceptance. Our emotions are less intense and we are more able to see the big picture.
Fifth stage: Acceptation and adaptation
In this stage we hope for a better quality of life. We make appointments to see a professional and get hearing aids and then we act. It is important to note that making the decision to wear hearing aids does not necessarily mean that the hearing loss has been accepted. It does, however, indicate a giant step in the good way.
After the diagnosis or hearing aid fitting, an adaptation period is necessary to notice the benefits and get back to a normal life. Professional advice is crucial for readapting to communication and the world of sound.
It may take some people up to seven years to go through all of these stages, while others may get stuck in one stage or another, unable to take the next step.
Accepting hearing loss means going through several stages that all need to be navigated before finally rediscovering quality of life.
By Jeanne Villeneuve, audioprosthetist, Groupe Forget