We all would find it unacceptable to tease someone in a wheel chair. We would never tell a person whose vision won’t allow them to read a menu “you need to try harder”. We would never be outwardly frustrated while communicating with a person who has a speech impediment. In fact, we empathize with these people and their challenges and are willing to help them in any way we can.
In my 25 years of practice, I have noticed that of all disabilities, hearing loss generates by far the least amount of sympathy. Family and friends are often frustrated and irritated when a loved one struggles to hear them. People with hearing loss are often teased about missing words or seeming confused. Spouses can become so frustrated with their partners hearing loss that it begins to affect their relationship. These frustrations may be warranted when a loved one refuses to do something about their hearing loss and focuses the blame on others. However, when someone pursues hearing help in the form of hearing aids and then wears those aids consistently, THEY ARE DOING THE BEST THEY CAN!
Hearing aids provide varying degrees of improvement for each individual, but in all cases some communication challenges will remain. For some, even with hearing aids, communication difficulties can cause social isolation, stress, fatigue and even depression. When people with hearing loss perceive they don’t have the support and understanding of those around them it can emphasize these negative emotions. They may feel like nothing more than an inconvenience or irritant to others and begin to isolate themselves.
It is past time for people to treat hearing loss as they would any other disability. It is a genuine and serious issue, not an inconvenience, and the problems hearing loss creates are certainly not intentional. Those with hearing loss deserve support, patience, tolerance, respect, understanding, and accommodations just like anyone else with a medical or physical challenge.