Dear Lipreading Mom,
I've been dealing with being hard of hearing all my life. I read lips and know a little about American Sign Language. Anyway, I often wonder how many hard of hearing people who were never born deaf deal with being hard of hearing---living between the hearing and the deaf worlds. I found myself feeling very lonely and have been fighting the depression as of lately. Am I the only one who goes through this? I also notice that people would take my hearing loss to their advantage by saying it is a problem when it actually isn't. Please advise so that I may deal with my hearing loss in positive and constructive ways.
Feeling Lost Between Two Worlds
Like you, I often feel lost between the two worlds of those of hear and those who are part of the Deaf culture. Hearing loss is a unique world all its own---one that has its own set of characteristics. Before answering your question, let me identify what I have learned about my own hearing loss.
Definining the Hearing Loss 'Culture'
Most of us are aware that a Deaf culture exists. Simply visit a state school for the deaf, and observe students and teachers communicating mostly through American Sign Language (ASL). Or sit in on a coffee house "chat" with a local Deaf social group, and notice how quiet the room is while attendees use sign. The Deaf culture is something its participants are proud of, a
culture with a sharedASL language and communication style that goes back many years.
Now observe a local meeting of a hearing loss support group. The keynote speaker communicates with both sign language and orally. A man sitting in the back relies on an ASL translator to understand the speaker. A row of people read real-time captions from an overhead screen as a person types what the speaker is saying. Two women sitting up front watch the speaker's lips attentively to catch each word spoken. All of these people, except the sign interpreter and typist, are hard of hearing. Yet they all have different ways of communicating and understanding one another.
How can a hard of hearing (HOH) culture be defined?
1) Talk to your family doctor and/or audiologist about your depression. You may be referred to a counselor who specializes in coping with hearing loss depression and grief. I found that for many years, I grieved the hearing that I used to have. The counselor pointed me to a grief support group and discussed medical options should I choose them.
2) Write down your thoughts about hearing loss. I've kept journals for years, and this writing allowed me to express my
worries, fears and sadness in a tangible way. It was must better for me to write about these feelings than to suppress them.
3) Pursue the hobbies/interests you enjoy that don't necessarily require "perfect" hearing. Although phone conversations are difficult for me, I enjoy meeting friends one-on-one for coffee. I also enjoy regular exercise and have found that it curbs some of the depression. Other ideas: Reading, crossword puzzles, bike riding, woodworking.
4) Realize that you are not alone with hearing loss. The more you accept the loss, the more likely you will be open to others about it. And the move I've shared about my hearing loss with others, the more people have opened up to me about their hearing concerns.
With time, you may discover how your hearing loss can be a way to encourage and connect with others in a similar circumstance. Your experiences and wisdom are and will be important.
Please keep me posted.
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Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Raised in a hearing family, Shanna traces her hearing loss to a genetic loss on the paternal side of her family. She is mom to three young children, a published author, and speaker. Her books are featured at www.ShannaGroves.com. Shanna blogs about being a hard of hearing mom at http://LipreadingMom.com.