The average American waits seven to ten years before getting the help they need for their hearing loss. Countless misunderstandings occur. Communication breaks down. Frustration escalates. Relationships suffer. Precious time is lost.

Each and every person has to go through their own individual process of dealing with hearing loss. However, studies have shown that there are some generalities that can be made about people’s coping strategies.

This column is based on Carol Waechter’s articles in the SHHH Californian. Carol teaches lip reading classes for the Long Beach Community College and is a professional advisor for the Long Beach/Lakewood SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing) group.

As you read the coping styles of people with hearing loss, look to see which coping strategies you (or a loved one) use.

Denier – This person does not acknowledge his hearing loss. Therefore, he doesn’t have to be responsible for his loss and doesn’t have to deal with it.

Passive – The Passive realizes that he has a hearing loss and that he could probably do something about it. However, he either chooses to do nothing at all or just doesn’t get around to doing anything. Something always comes up to put his hearing loss on the back burner.

Dependent – When this hard of hearing person can’t hear or understand what is being said, he depends on his spouse or another family member to speak up for him. He avoids making any decisions or moves on his own, and gives up most of his power.

Criticizer – This person is good at blaming others for his inability to hear and understand. The Criticizer will often say, “If you would only stop mumbling, I’d hear you”. It’s the speaker’s responsibility not his.

Resigned – This person has accepted the fact that he has a hearing loss but is resigned about it. He looks back on the days without hearing loss as the “good old days” and believes his life is as good as it gets. He is often heard saying, “My hearing is not very good but what do you expect for my age”.

Strategizer – This person takes responsibility for his hearing loss and strives to do all he can to make communication as easy as possible for his family and friends. He typically plans ahead so he can stay in the conversation and connected to people. For example, he’ll insist on going to a quiet restaurant with one other couple rather than be part of a larger group in a noisy restaurant.

Activist – Not only does this person do all he can to improve his own communication abilities but he also takes action to help others with hearing loss. His own experience helps him to help others with hearing loss. And in helping others, it helps him cope with his own loss.

In Transition – Most people do not remain in one coping style forever. People often transition between two styles. The most common transition is from passive but learning to strategize.

These people are willing to accept their hearing loss and work at being in communication. In the long run these people have more satisfying and fulfilling relationships.

So which one are you? Which one is your loved one? Next month, you’ll have a chance to learn about the coping styles of spouses or significant others.

I recommend that you keep this month’s article and then read next month’s ALL EARS column. It could make for an important discussion if there is hearing loss in your family! It may even transition you into another coping style that gets you into action..

Remember, waiting too long to seek help is detrimental to you, your hearing health and your relationships.