The Psychology of Hearing Loss


by Harmonie Miller-Crites 

Hearing loss is like a thief who robs the richness of sounds and muffles speech. Untreated, it drives us away from the warmth of the social circle and the bridge of conversation. Over time it can have profound effects on the psyche, working against our own will to get help. The good news is that understanding what’s going on with our emotions and how to overcome them can make a profound improvement in the quality of life.

Because the emotions involved in hearing loss are not always something people talk about, it’s an important issue to discuss. Recognizing these emotions allows people to process them and take action, rather than feeling isolated in their struggle. Many hearing loss suffers reject getting any type of help despite the numerous benefits to their overall happiness. Below, we’ll share some of the reasons for this paradox and take a closer look at what an individual with hearing loss may be experiencing in the complex psychology of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is a condition that directly affects the brain, hearing is intimately involved with our identity, our sense of wholeness and our ability to connect with the world around us. Adults vary in their response according to age, their emotional makeup and cumulative effect of life experiences. For older adult suffers, hearing problems are often seen as another sign of aging, coming, as it often does, when other physical abilities are failing. The remedy for this – hearing instruments – is seen not as a sign of independence, but as a sign of weakness or disability that compounds the sense of lost youth or power. This is one of the reasons it’s so common for people to resist getting any type of help.

Understand that hearing loss is indeed a loss, and it can cause grief over lost capability and lost youth. Hearing professionals often observe the classic stages of grief such as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Denial can be triggered by the fact that compared to other losses that come with aging, hearing loss is invisible. Unlike a wrinkle or gray hair that we can visibly see, the invisible problem is easier to ignore. Once the problem can no longer be denied, you may see anger, at family, at themselves, at hearing devices or even their environment. Be encouraged that anger is actually a sign of progress. Bargaining is a form of conditional acceptance that you may see in the form of conscious postponement of anything committal in getting help with the loss, such as getting a hearing evaluation. The fourth stage, depression, comes with a complete realization of the condition and it can be manifested in feeling hopelessness and withdrawal. This is the time when a caregiver’s support is most important and a sign that acceptance of the hearing loss is coming.

Younger adults are more likely to admit they have a hearing problem. They’re more likely to be able to say, “OK, I have a hearing problem, it’s part of who I am.” Once they accept it, people with this self-image find it easier to get help for their loss and to adjust to life. This in contrast to waiting until later in life, when someone has already developed a self-image as a person who is fully able to hear and learn to compensate in other ways such as passing blame to others for their lack of understanding.

Understanding the grief process can help you see when the time is right to seek help in the form of a hearing evaluation and determine if hearing aids would be helpful. The decision to help with the hearing loss is based on a desire to achieve a real goal. That goal is to accept the hearing loss as an accepted reality that is correctable. Everyone’s timing is different. When the time is right a hearing care professional such as an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor) can lay out the options, explain the clear consequences and help you and your loved one can understand and how each option relates to achieving personal goals.

Gaining confidence through hearing is a journey that starts with a visit to NorthEast Ear, Nose & Throat Center. We are located at 3003 Dale Earnhardt Blvd., in Kannapolis. Our hearing care professions would be happy to answer your questions and schedule a free hearing consultation with our audiology department. Please call us at (704) 788-1103 Monday through Friday and let the new journey to a better life begin.