Common coping strategies
Does your loved one respond inappropriately in conversation, talk over people, or listen to the TV much louder than anyone else? It’s very common for people with untreated hearing loss to rely on these kinds of subtle coping strategies. Because hearing often deteriorates slowly, your loved one may not realise how much they are compensating for their hearing loss. They may also be in denial, not wanting to admit they have poor hearing which may need treatment.
Unfortunately coping habits only make the problem of hearing loss worse. Trying to cover up the issue can be tiring and stressful for your loved one, and create more communication problems with the people around them.
You can help your loved one by looking out for signs they may be compensating for a hearing loss. If they are coping with a hearing problem, you can help them move from denial to acceptance by encouraging them to get their hearing tested. Once your loved one admits they have a hearing loss, they can start to change their life with a hearing loss treatment. Following are some of the most common hearing loss coping strategies to look out for.
Reliance and enabling
Relying on others to repeat and interpret conversations is a common strategy for dealing with hearing loss. While it may be tempting to act as ‘ears‘ for your loved one, helping in this way only keeps them in the phase of hearing loss denial. It can also place a strain on relationships and compound your loved one’s sense of social isolation.
Missing conversation cues
Does your loved one often respond inappropriately to questions, speak out of turn, or appear to ignore people who are talking to them? It’s common for people with hearing loss to misread conversational cues and say the wrong thing, which in turn creates tensions with their colleagues, friends and family. This can make your loved one feel anxious, embarrassed or depressed and cause them to withdraw from social situations. Missing social cues could also be mistaken for insensitivity or a sign of senility, worsening your loved one’s feelings of inadequacy.
To avoid asking others to repeat themselves or saying the wrong thing, people with hearing loss may bluff their way through conversations. Your loved one may smile, nod and feign understanding to overcome awkwardness or feel part of the conversation. However this pretense only creates more misunderstandings. Your loved one may be perceived as being detached or of having ‘selective hearing’ or a faulty memory. Bluffing is often a huge strain for a person with hearing loss. It also undermines the honest, open communication so important to personal relationships.
Dominating the conversation
Because people with hearing loss have trouble hearing, they may take control of the conversation by talking all the time. Your loved one may jump in to fill in silences and frequently talk over or at people, instead of allowing the natural pauses and back and forth of conversation. The tendency to dominate conversation can make your loved one appear disrespectful, aggressive, controlling, self-centered or a ‘know it all’. It also means they lose out on the joy of a truly two-way interaction in which they learn about another person.
Another harmful coping strategy used by people with hearing loss is withdrawal. Your loved one might keep busy with chores to avoid taking part in noisy family gatherings, make excuses not to talk on the phone or turn down social invitations. Withdrawal leaves your loved one increasingly isolated from the people and activities they love. They miss out on countless precious moments, from enjoying a joke with friends to sharing stories with their grandchildren.
Turning up the volume
Does your loved one blame room acoustics, background noise, or faulty technology for needing to turn the volume up on the television or radio? Increasing volume on the television is a common way in which a person adjusts to hearing loss. While it may seem harmless, it prevents your loved one from recognising they have a hearing loss and seeking the necessary treatment. Turning up volume can also strain relationships, making it difficult for your loved one to watch television or listen to the radio in the same room as other people.
Visiting a hearing specialist is the first step to alleviating the stress, exhaustion, anxiety, sadness and social isolation that comes with trying to cover up a hearing loss. With testing, a hearing specialist can diagnose your loved one’s hearing problem, and identify the best treatment to restore their communication skills, self-esteem and enjoyment of life.
Stages in dealing with hearing loss
The stages in dealing with hearing loss can be aligned with the five stages of grieving - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Denial that they have a hearing loss. Your loved one may blame other people or technology for the fact they can’t hear. “My phone has terrible reception” or “everyone mumbles”.
Anger towards their audiologist or anyone else related to the hearing loss. “What would they know?” or “how is a hearing aid going to help?”
Bargaining “I don’t really need a hearing aid, I’ll be a much more patient person.”
Depression “What’s the point of going out with friends if I can’t hear anything they say.”
Acceptance that they have a hearing loss which needs treatment. “I’m ready to hear again, and a cochlear implant could help me.”
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.