Hearing Loss Coping Styles

Last week, I discussed how people choose to cope with hearing loss.  Although every 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, family members also have different styles of coping when someone they love has a hearing loss. Remember, a hearing problem is a family problem. So, how your family members deal with your hearing needs can have a huge impact on the quality of your relationships.

The material I am about to share with you comes from Carol Waechter’s articles in the SHHH Californian. Carol taught lip-reading classes at the Long Beach Community College.

As you read the coping styles of family members, remember that this material is relevant to all your relationships (mother and son, father and son, mother and daughter, father and daughter, and even, friend to friend). Can you determine which styles are relevant to your family members when it gets to your hearing needs?

Coping Styles of Family Members

PROTECTOR /MANAGER –  This family member assumes responsibility for getting what the hard-of-hearing person needs. Answering phone calls, making appointments, and even interpreting conversations are taken on as accepted responsibilities. Some people get so caught up in this role that they can’t give it up even when their loved one gets properly, fitted hearing instruments. Other Protectors and Managers resent this role, each and every day.

UNINVOLVED / HANDS OFF – This person lacks concern for their hard-of-hearing family member. They are often detached because they believe that the person with the hearing problem is the one who needs to cope with it. This person is likely to say, “YOU have the hearing loss, so deal with it.” Digging deeper, this person may use the Hands Off approach because they have given up hope after years of living with someone in denial about their hearing problem. Remember, this is just a coping style and not a bad person.

CRITICIZER –  When a hearing loss impacts your relationship, there are bound to be breakdowns in communication. This family member will criticize the hear-of-hearing person and rarely takes responsibility for these breakdowns. They say, “You never listen to me.  You’re not paying attention.” The Criticizer coping style makes it hard to admit that communication is a two-way street. Both people are responsible for making the communication work, despite a hearing loss.

VICTIM – This person has difficulty empathizing with the hard-of-hearing person. They are so wrapped up in the effect that hearing loss has on them, and how hard their life has become. They are invested in being a Victim which is another way of avoiding responsibility. 

RESIGNED / REMINISCER –  This family member looks back at all the good times they have had in the relationship but is resigned to the changes they now face in their life. At some level, it is safer to be resigned rather than be hopeful and work on the relationship. It is common for them to say, “Oh well, we can’t do what we used to do. It’s just not the same with this hearing problem.”

Hearing loss remains a misunderstood issue for so many people and their loved ones.

Do you remember which coping styles you typically use when living with your hearing loss, even a mild loss? And which coping styles do you think your spouse or other family members tend to use? To make it easier for you, click on this link and you’ll have both Coping Styles for yourself and your family member all in one place. 

Download The PDF

Take the Avalon Challenge with a Loved One
I dare you to shake things up in your important relationships!  Would you be willing to have a conversation about how you cope with your hearing loss in your relationship? Ask your loved one to look over the Coping Styles and then, set aside some time to talk about it.  I’m going to send this to my Mom in Canada and then, ask her to have a chat with me.

WOW…I just got nervous
My body just stiffened up and I noticed an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I got nervous as I told you that I was going to take on this challenge, myself. I realize that I will have to get honest with myself to determine my coping styles. Then, I’ll have to get vulnerable to have a conversation with my Mom about how we communicate (by phone) despite a hearing loss. Her hearing aids have not been working well lately, and she gets tired more easily. Truthfully, it’s getting harder to talk on the phone for both of us. This scares me because I WANT TO BE CONNECTED to my Mom. So, I am willing to be vulnerable and make have this conversation. 

Life is precious
During these uncertain times, life has become even more precious. I won’t be traveling to Canada this Christmas for the first time in years. So, how I communicate with my Mom by phone matters. It takes a concerted effort to communicate effectively and connect in any relationship impacted by hearing loss. Mom, let’s you and I do whatever it takes! 

May you do whatever it takes!