In 1969, Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of emotions experienced by people dealing with grief. Because hearing loss is a significant change in someone’s life, the complex emotions and sensations associated with grief will often follow. If you’re dealing with hearing loss, this is a handy guide to let you know what to expect and to reassure you that it’s normal to feel this way.
Before we move onto the stages, it’s important to keep in mind that individuals are unique. As such, we do not move through these 5 stages in the same order and we do not follow a predictable time frame. Also, if you’re loved one is going through hearing loss, you might also go through these feelings. This is also perfectly natural.
Unlike some problems, hearing loss is invisible. Because of this, it is often easy to ignore. Many suffering from hearing loss will go through denial, blaming the speech of others for their lack of hearing. They might also argue that everyone is over-reacting. “I’m fine, stop worrying!” is a common response of people who are in denial about their hearing loss. Because individuals are in denial, an initial diagnosis of hearing loss can result in a sense of shock, disbelief, and unreality. This is all normal and is a temporary emotion, another stage will replace it.
Individuals who are suffering from hearing loss have lost a valuable sensory organ. It is understandable that this loss leads to anger and resentment. As with many emotions, this anger can be pushed onto loved ones. A person dealing with hearing loss might resent other people for not immediately understanding and changing their habits to accommodate for their hearing loss. For example, they might get angry if they feel left out of a conversation or if they mishear a question and respond inappropriately.
There may also be a general type of anger whereby an individual feels that the world is unfair and unjust. Because there is no one to be angry at, the response to this might be to deny the anger. This can be harmful to mental health and people should seek some help from a kind mentor or trained professional.
During the bargaining stage, an individual enters into an arrangement in the hopes of preventing the inevitable. This stage of grief is not easily to applied to hearing loss yet, there are still examples. An individual might make deals with a spiritual entity, exchanging good behavior for a day of hearing. This stage is grief is private and might only be shared with a spiritual advisor. Even so, bargaining should not be ignored because it might lead to guilt, stress or anxiety. It could also lead to more anger.
Hearing loss is a challenge. Suddenly things that were once easy are now difficult. For example, dining in a busy restaurant now requires more concentration than before. Those with hearing loss are also likely to miss out on funny or important conversations, this could leave the person feeling left out and isolated. This isolation and loneliness can contribute towards depression, as can the need to depend on others. Financial worries, such as job uncertainty or the cost of hearing care and hearing aids, can also contribute towards anxiety and depression. Loved ones and professionals can help with this depression by taking steps to ensure that those with hearing loss aren’t left out.
Most individuals dealing with grief and loss will eventually come to acceptance. At this point, an individual is neither depressed or angry about their hearing loss. Acceptance of any loss takes time and this acceptance might not be permanent; individuals might move in and out of it. When an individual does accept their hearing loss, life gets easier. For example, they will follow recommendations about hearing instruments. They might also use a range of strategies to help make their lives easier.
Hearing loss is a challenging experience to accept. Some individuals might find that they go through a series of complex emotions. If this is you or a loved one, know that this is perfectly normal. It is part of processing the loss. If you suspect that you’ve got hearing loss or if you’re seeking a professional to talk through these emotions with you, feel free to reach out to us.