Accepting one’s deafness

November 15, 2008 by Michèle Veilleux

Accepting one's deafness

Is putting one’s quality of life first!

It takes time to accept hearing loss, whether one’s own or that of one’s spouse or child. Understand that you are not alone in going through this, as over 10% of the population is afflicted with deafness.

The process for accepting deafness is similar to the grieving process. Accepting one’s deafness requires acceptance of the difficulties and handicaps that come with it. For the parents of a child with a hearing loss, it means admitting that their child is different. As for a deaf adult, it is a matter of accepting that things are different than in the past and dealing with new situations in daily life.

The process for accepting deafness has five stages. However, they are not linear, meaning it is possible to go through a stage several times. It is also important to understand that the order of the stages depends on the person.

First is SHOCK after receiving the diagnosis. The shock of learning that your child is deaf, or of learning that past troubles were actually related to hearing loss. This is a strongly emotional time and tons of questions arise.

Then there is the NEGATION stage. This is a period of great optimism, even to the point of exaggeration. One denies the real effects of deafness and look for a second opinion to obtain favourable advice that will counter the initial diagnosis. The absence of taking control and of commitment generally characterizes this stage.

Despair, anger, anxiety and sadness follow. It is generally a difficult step: why me? GUILT and POWERLESSNESS are felt next. People generally go through a period of isolation and fear of varying intensity.

Next, these feelings fade, giving way to DETACHMENT. Limits are admitted, but situations of conflict and misunderstanding are still experienced. For example, a hearing aid is considered, but the situation is still very emotional. The hard-of-hearing individual is not totally open about it, and deafness remains a taboo topic. It is only later that the person will be able to talk about it in a positive way.

Acceptation and reorganization are necessary for the process to conclude.
Acceptance means believing in the future, finding ways to compensate and adapting. In this stage, initiatives are adopted and approaches are put to use. Choosing to wear hearing aids or to outfit one’s child with them does not mean that deafness has been accepted, but it is still a step in the right direction.

Each stage is necessary for acceptance, and one should never feel judged by a professional or close friends or family. On the contrary, these key people should encourage progress by providing support.

Nevertheless, some people may become stuck in one stage, remaining in it for a very long time, even forever. In these situations, help should be sought. An audiologist is without a doubt the professional who will help you through the process of accepting your deafness.

When situations are more complex and emotional, other professionals such as psychologists can be included in the rehabilitation. It should be noted that certain psychologists specialize in the area of deafness. In general, these professionals can be found in rehabilitation centres. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact an audiologist at a Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinic.