Last month, we discussed how people with hearing loss learn to cope with their hearing impairment.

Although each person goes through their own process of coming to terms with hearing loss, there are generalities that can be made about people’s coping strategies. Likewise, spouses also have different styles of coping with family hearing loss. How each person deals with his/her spouse’s loss can have a huge impact on the quality of the relationship.

The remainder of this column comes from 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 spouses (or other family members), see if you can find yourself (or someone you love) in one of these groups.

Protector/Manager – This spouse assumes the responsibility for getting what the hard of hearing person needs because of the hearing loss. Answering phones, making appointments, interpreting conversations are all taken on as accepted responsibilities. Some people get so caught up in this role that they can’t give it up. Others resent it, each and every day.

Uninvolved/Hands-off – This spouse lacks any concern at all. The hard of hearing individual, after all, is the person with a problem and that is who needs to learn to cope with it. This person is likely to say, “YOU have a hearing loss, so DEAL with it.”

Criticizer – When there is a hearing loss within a relationship, there is bound to be breakdowns in communication.

This spouse will criticize the hard of hearing individual for the breakdown by saying something like “You never listen to me!” or “You don’t pay attention when I’m talking.” Taking part of the responsibility for breakdowns or admitting the fact that communication is a two-way street never occurs to the Criticizer.

Victim – This spouse has difficulty empathizing with the hard of hearing spouse because s/he is so wrapped up in the effect the hearing loss has on her/him. The main concern is how this individual’s life has changed because the spouse has a hearing loss.

Resigned/Reminiscer – This spouse is able to look back at all the good times they have had as a couple and is resigned to the changes in their life. It is common for this spouse to be heard saying, “Oh well, we can’t do what we used to. It’s just not the same now that he/she has a hearing loss.”

Supporter/Encourager – This spouse is upbeat and helps and encourages the hard of hearing individual without coddling or demeaning him/her. This spouse is aware of accommodations that must be made for good communication to take place and does his/her share in making this happen. This spouse is also aware of possible breakdowns in the communication process and develops strategies to avoid these problems.

Spouses also have an IN TRANSITION stage which would include those who know their relationship is changing because of hearing loss and are doing their best to learn how to cope with this adjustment. They just haven’t settled into one style of coping. And that is actually a good thing!

So which coping style do you use? Which one does your spouse use? It’s worth a conversation…a conversation that could bring connection and closeness back into your relationship.