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Overcoming the Emotional Toll of Hearing Loss

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WebMD Feature

Being diagnosed with hearing loss, or learning that your child is hearing-impaired, isn't easy. You may feel a range of emotions, from shock to anger to sadness. Here are tips that can help you face these feelings.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Most parents don't know much about hearing loss. Learning that your child is hearing-impaired can be shocking, since 9 out of 10 hearing-impaired children are born to parents with normal hearing. Hearing loss that happens later in life may not be as surprising. But losing your hearing as an adult can still lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, isolation, and fatigue.

"Parents of children with severe hearing loss typically go through the classic stages of grief," says Anne L. Oyler, associate director for audiology professional practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). These stages include denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. Oyler says it's important to know -- ahead of time -- that you might experience a variety of intense emotions. Know that what you're feeling is perfectly normal for the situation.

Don't try to hide your feelings from the people around you. Ask for help when you need it. "When it comes to dealing with severe hearing loss, it really does take a village," Oyler says. For emotional support, turn to your friends, clergy, co-workers, and others who can help.

Be Patient and Teach Others

Adapting to hearing loss doesn't happen right away. "You may feel you're doing well one day, and then suddenly experience anger all over again," Oyler says. "Many people with serious hearing loss describe the experience as a journey, with many turns along the way. You can't expect to come to terms with something like this all at once."

As the parent or spouse of a hearing-impaired person, you can help by:

  • Speaking clearly (talking louder can sometimes make it more difficult for people to understand)
  • Facing the person when you speak
  • Making appropriate gestures and facial expressions, and getting rid of distracting ones
  • Turning off background sounds

For the person who is hearing impaired, teaching people around you about your hearing loss -- and how they can better communicate -- can also be beneficial. "Teaching others is a way of getting past denial and anger and accepting the reality of hearing loss," Oyler says.

It's also important to be patient and educate family and friends. The more they know about you or your child's hearing loss, the more likely they are to help with healthy communication.

Be Alert to Signs of Depression

Sometimes the sadness of dealing with hearing loss can turn into depression. Studies suggest that mothers may be at higher risk of depression than fathers when a child has hearing loss. Be aware of the symptoms of depression, including:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of pleasure
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing depression, talk to your doctor.

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