It has been just over three years since my sudden hearing loss, which left me profoundly deaf in my left ear. The months following this loss were spent hoping for some recovery. I was optimistic about the possibility of learning invaluable pieces of information from every specialist I met, and was hopeful concerning each new treatment or therapy I tried. Though, these months were also full of frustration, anger, sadness; difficult feelings that grasped at me with all their strength, making each day a duel to be fought. Now that three years have passed, and I am confidently dealing with the practical effects of hearing loss, I can look back at this experience with clarity and more understanding about the emotional impact this loss has had on my life,
During the time immediately subsequent to losing my hearing, I didn’t allow my grief to consume my attention. In truth, I don’t think I even realised I was grieving. Instead, practical issues dominated my thoughts. I was productive and proactive in learning how to function in my new unanticipated state. I wanted to take control of my situation. I focussed on dealing with my noise sensitivity and tinnitus. I gradually learnt to cope more with everyday sounds. I set myself small targets to work towards and celebrated my accomplishments. I started to go outside and surround myself with difficult sounds, progressively increasing the exposure time with each day. I discovered where the best places to sit were in a restaurant with regard to limiting background noise, and learnt how to direct my hearing ear towards sources of conversation. I realised the power of subtitles, which enabled me to access all the dialogue when watching films and TV series. My boyfriend, and close friends and family learnt to walk on my right-hand side so that I would be able to converse with less effort. I began to study the movement of peoples’ lips to help me make sense of speech in noisy environments. I learnt my physical limitations. My emotional health, however, I didn’t even consider.
Hearing loss grief is something that medical professionals didn’t talk to me about. No recommendations were given for support groups or information sources. I’m not sure if the absence of emotional guidance was due to the language barrier, or if it generally isn’t offered to patients here in Spain. Perhaps those affected by hearing loss are expected to search for the type of help they feel will be the most effective for their situation. I haven’t widely verbalised my feelings of the different stages of grief I underwent following my hearing loss. Only those closest to me know the sadness I have felt. In fact, the impact of my hearing loss grief, and the importance of dealing with it in order to move forward in my hearing loss journey, is something that I’ve only recently started to pay much thought to.
There are so many different types of hearing loss, all that come with their own challenges and strains of grief. I wonder if having the time to prepare for the known gradual decline of hearing with age or a health condition brings any comfort. Yet, knowing loss is imminent must also present a tremendous burden. My hearing loss was sudden. I had no time to prepare. I had very little understanding of the practical issues regarding hearing loss. I had no awareness of the mental pain hearing loss could bring,
I felt guilty for feeling sad. I was swallowing down grief in giant gulps, trying to dismiss complex emotions. The pragmatic part of my character knew there were much worse challenges that life could present to me.
Then, several months after my sudden hearing loss, I was given some advice from a stranger, who I had briefly connected with online. I was told that, as with any other loss, I would need to grieve my lost sound with the attention it deserved. This advice proved so important in helping me address the emotional aspects of my new situation, and immediately made it feel acceptable for me to feel sad and allow myself to begin the process of grieving.
I suppose everyone with hearing loss will experience different emotions and stages of grief, and will deal with them in their own unique ways. I had periods of feeling angry. I was angry because I felt that I could no longer rely on my body; it had failed me. I contemplated the fragility of life. I felt sadness, isolation and exhaustion from missed words in conversations, that used to be so easy to follow. I continuously questioned my feelings as to whether they were a justified measure of grief and then learned to treat myself with more kindness. The acceptance, which took time, came ultimately when I sought a second medical opinion, and I was told bluntly by a specialist that it would be very unlikely that I would regain any hearing and that this was my new normal. I needed this closure.
I found the most help through my grief by talking to my boyfriend, who provided unfaltering support, strength, and compassion. I confided in him, explaining my feelings and new hearing sensations. We shared the experience of loss so closely and we found our own way to deal with these new circumstances together. I also reached out to others through writing about my hearing loss journey in my blog. I corresponded with people who were going through similar situations, and continue to encourage this communication. I now find comfort in being able to offer my advice and share experiences with others. Hearing loss grief remains one of the main topics of discussion.
I am reminded of my lost sound every day. Our senses play a significant role in how we engage with the world. For people, like me, who are accustomed to living in a ‘hearing’ world, our sense of hearing determines how we enjoy music, how we recognise the voices of our friends and family, and how we interact socially. I don’t want to forget life before my hearing loss and I consciously hold onto memories of past experiences when having the full ability to hear made these times so special – times spent enjoying music festivals and memories of past holidays, when my hearing or noise issues didn’t even need to be considered.
I am proud that I carry a tiny piece of my hearing loss grief with me; an invisible scar. Like other scars on my body – shadows of scuffed knees from playground games, teenage acne, and surgical scars – I regard it with pride. My scars are evidence of victories over health issues. They are evidence of healing. My scar of hearing loss grief is something I acknowledge every day. Yet, it’s much more than grief or sadness; it’s a little bit of strength I take with me everywhere. My hearing loss grief is part of my story.
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Thank you for another excellent piece of writing – your honest appraisal of your difficulties must be so helpful to so many people.
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Thanks Tricia for all your support x
Great post Carly. Speaking as someone who had very gradual hearing loss I think it was much easier to adjust to than the sudden loss you experienced. Year by year little bits of my hearing slipped away, but the adjustments could be quite minor too. I remember feeling quite proud of how well I was coping. And then things got really bad and I wasn’t coping – and I was shocked by the grief. It really did take someone to sit me down and say “you’re grieving, of course you are, you have big things to grieve about.” Then the tears flowed, and flowed and flowed.
My experience in the U.K. is much like yours in Spain. The medical system didn’t offer any help on the emotional aspects of my hearing loss, or indeed on much else apart from the technology. It took a counsellor with no experience of deafness to realise what was going on.
So much could be better on this front.
Sending warmest wishes from a cold, wet and windy Yorkshire. This morning, out on the moors with Izzy the dog, I could have quite envied someone living in Spain 😀
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Hi Vera, it’s great to hear from you 🙂
I hope you are very well?
It’s interesting how people cope with their hearing loss in different ways.
I had a comment from a lady, regarding the same point (whether having the time to prepare for the known gradual decline of hearing with age or a health condition brings any comfort). She strongly argued against this thought. The lady talked about the stigma attached to age-related hearing loss, increasing difficulties in communication and how age has an impact on learning sign-language…
Your comment was very different to hers and gave more insight into how it must have felt to have a gradual loss. It also made me feel lee apologetic for writing down this thought. I think this just highlights how we all deal with hearing loss in different ways and with different mentalities.
I had a quick search online and found many links for counsellors offering grief support, yet I couldn’t find anything specific to hearing loss or lost senses. There really does seem to be a gap here…
Best of wishes to you too Vera, from a sunny but cold Madrid. I will be in Yorkshire over Christmas, so will have to wrap up warm!
Thank you for your posts,
I lost my hearing sooo similar to you just over six weeks ago now. Your posts have helped me verbalize to my friends and family how and what I feel, since I’m not very good at that. I lost mine this oct 21, 2019 and went down like a rock from the vertigo. I have had severe tinnitus and unbalance with the hearing loss ever since. They have done the prednisone and shots to my ear with no change and have not really given me any insight to what the next is for me. It’s almost like they are afraid to say this is permanent or it could be this.
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Thank you for your comment.
I am sorry you have also experienced sudden hearing loss and hope you have support from friends and/or family to help you, especially during these first few months.
It can be difficult for others to understand all the hidden issues that come with hearing loss and I am glad my posts have helped you to verbalize how you are feeling. I actually find this difficult too – and it is easier for me to write things down rather than try to explain them verbally.
The specialists might want to monitor your hearing loss for the first two or three months, to make sure it is stable, before giving you any definite information or advice. Once you know what your hearing capacity is in the affected ear you may benefit from a hearing aid, or a CROS aid (for single-sided deafness). Hearing aids can also help mask tinnitus as they focus your hearing on ‘real’ sounds.
Please feel free to contact me via my contact page if you have any questions. Or, if you’d prefer to share your story with others who have been through similar experiences, I have a Facebook group – just search for ‘My Hearing Loss Story group’ and I will add you.
Hello Lisa. My story is much the same. However, the first thing I did after seeing the doctor was run to my Osteopath for the vertigo and tinnitis. It was horrible and I had three distinct sounds all going at once. She sorted out the vertigo in one session and I went back 4 more times. The tinnitis is still with me but just one sound now. I had two sessions at the ENT at the hospital and quickly understood that I was just going to have to learn to live with it. The hearing came back ever so slightly but then levelled out. It has been almost a year. I listen to sound tracks before going to sleep and in the morning, which help me stay zen. Avoid stress and loud noise. Take care.
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Hi there Lisa,
Thank you for the comment.
It’s great that the osteopath helped you with your vertigo.
I also tried alternative therapies following my hearing loss – physiotherapy, osteopath, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.
Each therapy offered some type of relief from tinnitus, ear pressure or dizziness. The osteopath stuck tiny ear seeds around my ear which I had to press regularly throughout the day. It sounds a bit strange, but this did seem to relax my ears and eased the pressure inside them.
I continue to see a chiropractor. I find that my ears feel more ‘open’ following manipulations – it’s difficult to explain.
I definitely think it is worth exploring alternative therapies to help with issues associated with hearing loss.
Good advice to avoid stress and loud noise!
Thank you for writing this article, Carly! Out of all the great things you’ve written about SSHL, this is what hit home hardest for me – we are not alone in feeling the loss on much more than a physical level – and I really appreciate having you as a companion – albeit a distant one – in my journey. You are awesome!
On Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 5:51 AM My Hearing Loss Story wrote:
> myhearinglossstory posted: ” It has been just over three years since my > sudden hearing loss, which left me profoundly deaf in my left ear. The > months following this loss were spent hoping for some recovery. I was > optimistic about the possibility of learning invaluable pieces of inf” >
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Thank you for the positive comment!
Over the last couple of years, I have heard from many people in similar situations who are finding it difficult to deal with the emotional impact of hearing loss, in particular when it is sudden. It seems like a lot of these people feel almost guilty for feeling like this, as there are of course worse things that could happen..But isn’t this always the case? Moving forward after a sudden hearing loss is not easy.
I’m glad I have been able to openly share the emotional impact my hearing loss had on me and I hope others will take comfort in knowing that these feelings are normal.
I appreciate your support too and it’s always great to receive positive feedback – thank you 🙂
Wishing you a lovely day,
Excellent post Carly. I suffered SSHL just over 2 years ago and I’m only just beginning to be kind to myself and acknowledging my grief at losing my hearing. It’s absolutely life changing, but does get easier with time. We do learn to adapt. Keep blogging. It’s good to know we’re not alone.
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Hi there, Jane,
Thank you for the comment.
It can take time to start being kind to yourself. I still find this difficult. But you are right – it does get easier with time 🙂