On hearing loss forums, I see people asking for advice about dating hearing people – should they admit their hearing loss and when, should they hide their hearing technology under a hat, what’s the best way to explain the difference between deaf and hearing loss, and so on. These nerve-wracking thoughts plague people with hearing loss at the beginning of a (hopeful) romance.
She’s Hard of Hearing, He’s Not
I understand their concerns about how hearing loss affects relationships, because I’ve been in one for a long time with a hearing man. When I’m writing about hearing loss I refer to him as the Hearing Husband; otherwise I call him Doug (because that’s his name).
We knew each other for some time before becoming romantically involved, so the fact of my hearing loss was never a Big Reveal situation. We had worked together, so he already knew how frustrating communicating with me could be if he didn’t get my attention first, or how irritated I would get if he didn’t follow my rules of communication. And, truthfully? After 27 years of marriage, not much has changed. Sure, he’s no longer my boss so he can’t tell me what to do and I no longer get paid for making him look good. But the frustrations of communication still exist and are sometimes more irritating because emotion is involved. Why does he keep walking away while he’s talking to me? Why doesn’t she let me know she hasn’t got her hearing aids in?
We get through this, on a daily basis, because the Hearing Husband and I try to stick to a few golden rules for Living Happily Ever After with Hearing Loss. Here are what we consider to be the important ones.
4 Golden Rules for Living Happily Ever After with Hearing Loss
#1 Don’t start a conversation from a different room.
People with hearing loss can’t hear through walls or around corners. But this applies to both parties. The Hearing Husband is generally good at this rule, but I’m not. I’ll call out, “Doug, where are you?” When he replies “here”, I get irritated even though I started the conversation. I’ve been trying to train him to say, here in the kitchen. But even if he did, I might respond, “WHERE?”
#2 During an argument, face each other and don’t yell.
Actually, this applies to all conversations with a person with hearing loss. Eye contact is crucial and if people yell at us, we have trouble reading their distorted lips.
#3 Say your goodnights before turning out the lights.
I’m deaf in the dark. When the lights go out, so does all my conversational comprehension. Since the Hearing Husband won’t wear glow-in-the-dark lipstick to help me read his lips, we say whatever needs to be said before turning in. If something needs to be said at 3am, the lights go on. Not very romantic, I guess, but then neither are one-sided romantic whispers.
#4 Don’t be upset when your partner tells strangers about your hearing loss.
I prefer to be the one to self-identify my hearing challenges, because it puts me in control and the person has a better idea of my needs. But sometimes, when someone says something to me and I didn’t know it, the Hearing Husband might say, while waving me into the conversation, “She has hearing loss and didn’t hear you.” While I might dislike being outed, I have to get over it, because my husband is doing the right thing and it’s much better than what he used to say: “She is a little deaf and you’ll have to speak up.”
That one was always good for a few minutes of icy silence on my part. These are the basics that revolve mostly on the important two guidelines of making sure we have eye contact and that we are understanding each other. How hard can that be?