So a lot of my blog posts have been from my perspective; how I feel about the hearing loss, how I have coped and what I have found helpful so I thought it would be nice to focus this post on how my partner has found the whole experience of being with a hearing impaired person and what advice he would offer to other couples in the same position as us..
I put the following questions to him and his answers were a mixture of practical and endearing. It was interesting for me to see how he felt during the low points and how he personally coped with the change in our lifestyle.
If you would like to ask either of us any questions relating to our experience with hearing loss and Cochlear Implants, please do feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Did you notice I had a hearing impairment and wore hearing aids when you first met me in 2009?
A: Not at all. Your hair was down, your speech was fine and I can’t remember you missing anything I ever said. I had no reason to suspect anything ‘out of the ordinary’ .
Q: If so, what was your immediate reaction to this?
A: I can’t remember if/how I found out you wore a hearing aid or if/how (or when!) you told me about it but either way it wouldn’t have change a thing about how I felt about you. If anything, it probably made you a stronger person and no doubt that is a quality I admired.
Q: Do you think you changed the way you communicated with me to reflect my hearing loss?
A: After your loss in 2014, I went through a long period of over pronouncing my words and trying to speak a bit more ‘proper’ when we spoke; cutting the slang and making my lip movements clearer. We’ve both always been more into texting than phone calls so that never needed to change.
Q: Looking back over the past 7 years, do you think the hearing loss made our relationship any different to that of our peers?
A: I think, if anything, it’s probably brought us closer together. These challenges are easier to deal with if you’re a team and I’ve always tried to have your side and help you along the way; just as you’ve shown understanding and patience in helping me learn too.
Q: How did you feel when I further lost my hearing in 2014?
A: I don’t mind admitting I was sad. At first it felt like a huge blow; particularly the rollercoaster ride of good news of ‘Glue Ear’ followed by the low point when we received your final diagnosis of SSHL. I didn’t really let my sadness show and I put on a brave face. It wasn’t long before I realised we needed to be in this together. To fight together. To persevere together. To come out the other side as best we could. I realised that our lives may not have taken the rosey path that we would have liked and that new challenges would soon confront us; but I knew that together we could knock them flat.
Q: How would you say it changed our relationship or your feelings?
A: I don’t feel like it has changed anything about my feelings towards you or our dynamic when we’re together. Do you?!
Q: What did you find an effective coping mechanism?
A: Just getting on with life! You can’t change what’s happened and can’t put your life on hold because of it. Looking back, I suppose we both researched a lot about hearing loss which helped our understanding. Find out what works for yourself and what doesn’t. We have since met couples (through Hearing Link’s fantastic rehabilitation course) who went through the same ordeal that found counselling helped, others found talking together was beneficial whilst others found silence or religion. There are outlets to suit everybody.
Q: Did you feel under pressure as the “hearing partner” if so, how did you deal with this?
A: Not at all. Luckily for us both, Laura’s lip reading skills have always been exceptional. It was sad to see her confidence low and her not being happy when undertaking simple transactional conversations while shopping etc but I was determined that I would not interject too much when she was trying to converse with somebody. For me, holding back was probably the hardest part but I felt that if I was holding all conversations on her part I would have been stealing her independence; something which has always been key to her character. If Laura needed help in hearing or lip-reading I was always there, but I like to think that I wasn’t overbearing.
Q: What communication tools did you find useful/effective?
A: Clear lip movements and proper pronunciation help make for easier lip-reading. We also learned that when jumping between subjects it can be helpful to state the topic to make sure the hearing impaired person/lip-reader is on the same track. Things are more difficult at night or when the lights go off (and now the cochlear implant comes off too) but we cope with home-made hand signals. If Laura asks a question I’ll draw a cross or a tick on her hand. Likewise, I will spell out odd words on her hand or point to objects in the room, like the alarm clock which obviously means “did you set your alarm?” if I shrug she takes this as “what time for?” when I shake my head it means “you should have set it earlier”. I always shake my head. She hates the alarm clock.
Q: What piece of advice would you give for people in similar circumstances?
A: Keep your head up. I’m sure there will come a time when it feels like the world is crumbling down around you but fear not, plenty of people have fought this battle before you and plenty of people will after. There is support out there. Contact Hearing Link, Action on Hearing Loss and the many other fantastic resources available through many of the charities listed on Laura’s blog. Also, try to build up a support network of friends or family. Again there are many groups that have meet-ups where you can share your experiences and difficulties as well as learn from other people’s trials and tribulations.
There is definitely light and the end of the tunnel, no matter how long and narrow that tunnel might seem. Looking back over Laura’s incredible journey I can say she’s come out the other side in a way that was unimaginable at her lowest points; and this is not a unique story. This is the marvels of medical science and the wonder of Cochlear Implants. I’m sure if you’ve read Laura’s blog and suffer from hearing loss you can relate to several of her lows, her struggles, her woes and I hope wholeheartedly hope that you get the support and treatment need to get you back to your best or better. It’s a long tunnel, but it’s a tunnel you must take. There are no shortcuts and it does take a lot of hard work, determination and patience but it is doable.
To the partners: Be there. Be strong. Be understanding. Be everything that your partner needs you to be. And then wake up and do it all again.
Q: Any other comments?
A:We’re both very happy with how things have finally turned out and I wish you the same luck in your hearing journey too!