In the article, ‘Coming to Terms with Hearing Loss’, we talked about dealing with grief and regret on your journey. One of the important stages that we all come to in the grieving process is that of acceptance. It is only when you truly acknowledge to yourself that you have a problem and that your hearing loss is creating difficulties for your loved ones as well, that you can begin to find some solutions. Stubbornly ignoring the fact that you did not hear what someone said to you, that you don’t know why everyone is laughing, that you don’t understand why no one wants to watch TV with you, only adds to your distress and to the distress of your family and friends.
Let’s explore some coping strategies that will help to ameliorate the difficulties hearing loss can create.
1. Embrace and foster your other senses
When we lose the use of one of our sense faculties we can feel overwhelmed by that loss. Focusing on our other sense organs can take our minds away from that loss and increase the amount of information we perceive about the events going on around us. Learn to gather more information through your eyes, tongue and skin. There are vast networks of nerve endings in these areas that can convey enormous amounts of information to the brain.
Interestingly, groundbreaking research at the Colorado State University is generating some exciting possibilities based on the ability of the nerve endings in the tongue to send messages to the auditory nerve and thence to the brain. You can read more about this exciting discovery here: http://www.hearing-aid-news.com/new-device-helps-users-hear-with-their-tongue/ This discovery has the potential to completely supersede cochlear implants.
Although such innovations are not yet available on the market it is a reminder of how well the human species can adapt—make the most of that ability. Use your eyes, smell, taste, skin, and that 6th sense, your instinct to tell you more about what is happening.
The following two strategies are examples of making the most of your vision.
2. Learn to lip-read
Lip-reading is another tool that can help you make more sense of what is going on around you. Lip-reading can revolutionise your experience of those difficult social situations where background noise would otherwise make dialogue impossible. It is just one more tool to help you—and the more tools you have, the more confidence you will feel.
3. Use subtitles for films
Make the most of English subtitles on your DVDs. Most DVDs will have subtitles for the hard of hearing. The same goes for many TV channels. If a particular DVD does not come with English subtitles you can download free subtitle files for most commercial films from the internet. It is a straightforward process to play the subtitle file while watching the film—especially with video players such as VLC player (a free download).
The inconvenience of reading subtitles is better than having the family refuse to watch a film with you because of the volume.
4. Wear a badge
Wearing a badge to tell others of your hearing difficulties can really help in those difficult public situations. You know someone has said something to you but you don’t know whether it required a response or it was simply a comment about the weather. Pointing to your badge can lighten any potential embarrassment. This may or may not work for you and there will certainly be some situations where you want to avoid having attention drawn to your predicament.
5. Take a deep breath
Your fears and anxiety about your hearing loss can make it more difficult for you to understand what is happening around you. Take a deep breath and slow down. Be patient with yourself, your anxiety about the situation will prevent you taking in all the signals available. Maintaining your calmness will help you read signals such as facial expressions and even allow your inborn instincts to help you understand the situation better. Remember the first strategy? Give yourself time to allow those other senses to kick in–and stay calm –it will help others relax in your presence too.
6. Discover meditation
Learning the art of meditation can help you to feel more comfortable with silence and with your feelings of isolation. One of the challenges we face in meditation is dealing with the constant internal chatter and conversation that takes place in the mind. Many of those conversations may well be about coming to terms with your hearing loss.
Angrily rejecting your situation will only feed your bitterness and others will feel that rancour too. Whereas, embracing the silence and the loss of your favourite sounds such as the bird calls, the babbling creek, and your children’s voices will allow you to feel some inner contentment and to make the most of what you still have.
Meditation gives you the power to embrace your inner life and it does not need to be tied to any spiritual or religious philosophy. There are many organizations that teach meditation–give it a try.
Walt Whitman once said, “Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.” Although you may have lost your hearing, stay in the present, make the most of what you have and remember that life is still a precious, miraculous gift.
In the next article we will look at how your friends and family can help make life with hearing loss easier. Come and visit us at https://www.houseofhearing.ca/ and we can help you explore all the options.