Hearing loss is an extremely prevalent condition that will likely affect all of us to some degree at some point in our lives. Acknowledging and accepting hearing loss is more difficult for some people than others. Whether hearing loss occurs as part of the aging process, lifestyle or occupation, or even genetics, it can be tough to deal with the loss of something many of us rely on so heavily in daily life.
5 Stages of Hearing Loss
The 5 stages of grief is a concept that was introduced by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross back in 1969. It originated from her work with terminally ill patients, but is still widely used today and is applicable and relevant for dealing with almost any type of profound loss.
Stage 1: Denial
Hearing loss is typically not something that happens overnight. This is why so many people with hearing loss have such a difficult time recognizing it in themselves. People come up with all kinds of ways to justify deterioration in hearing, like the people around them are mumbling when they talk, or ears may be a little stuffy due to a cold or illness. Fear of change can also motivate people to deny any health issue that may impact daily living.
It often takes a friend or family member to bring it up directly before it is even considered, and even then it may not be immediately accepted.
Stage 2: Anger
Once acknowledgment of a hearing issue has been recognized by the individual, it is typically followed by a reaction of anger. People often feel resentment that it has happened to them, and possibly envious of others with no hearing issues, or even self-pity. This stage can involve resistance to help, lashing out, and possibly aggressive or abusive behavior.
Friends and family can help by showing patience and understanding at this stage, rather than reacting to the anger with a volatile reaction of their own.
Stage 3: Bargaining
After the anger has subsided, what comes next is a period of bargaining and negotiation. This bargaining may not even be expressed outwardly to another person. It often involves the individual with hearing loss believing the issue is not permanent and exploring ways to restore their hearing to normal by any means they can.
While some types of hearing loss are permanent, if hearing impairment is age-related or another sensorineural condition, then hearing aids can be a huge benefit in helping to restore hearing ability.
Stage 4: Depression
When it truly sinks that the hearing loss is real and that in most cases there is no way to return it to its original form depression can ensue. Losing something as integral as the ability to hear can be devastating because of the widespread impact. Many people feel regret about taking hearing for granted for so long now that it has been compromised. It can result in isolation, loneliness, and despair as the individual might feel they can no longer effectively communicate with others without being a burden.
The good news is that quite often a functional level of hearing can be restored with hearing aids. Before giving up hope, talking to a hearing professional for assessment and advice can present new opportunities.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Once the individual has finally acknowledged the nature of the problem and has decided to take action to get the help they need, they have reached the stage of acceptance. This stage involves employing the best strategy available to deal with the type and severity of the hearing loss. Most hearing aid users report an improved quality of life and higher levels of daily happiness and contentment.