Hearing Loss: The Stages of Grief
Published: November 30, 2020
Updated: March 23, 2022
Grief, a feeling of great sorrow and sadness. We often think that grief is associated with the loss of a family member, a close friend, or even a beloved pet. While the loss of a loved one is difficult, the need to grieve is not limited to this. Grief can be associated with inanimate items such as the loss of a car or childhood memorabilia. Hearing loss grief is also real and it entails several emotions that impact you negatively. There are stages you go through when grieving the loss of your hearing. These stages cause initial heartache but later allow for dealing with your hearing loss grief and leading to the acceptance of your hearing loss.
Stages of dealing with hearing loss grief
Typically, the first reaction to being told you have a hearing loss is a sense of disbelief or shock. Even if you believed you might have a problem, you still tell yourself everything is fine. That all changes when your healthcare professional tells you the breaking news for the first time. You might have expected the news but being informed sends shivers through your body. Nothing could have ever prepared you for such life-changing news.
The feeling of shock is closely followed by a feeling of denial. You may think to yourself: it cannot be me, the healthcare professional must have made a mistake. While you might believe that you have an incorrect diagnosis initially, you decide to go in search of a second opinion. When you are not satisfied with the first two diagnoses you may seek a third, fourth, or even a fifth opinion. In the end, the diagnosis will be the same, you have a hearing loss. The denial stops. You might think acceptance comes now, but that is not the case. You are about to experience the self-eating emotion known as anger.
When you have realised that there was no error and indeed you do have a hearing loss the feeling of anger fully sets in. You begin to feel enraged, and resentful. This is because you are feeling that your medical diagnosis of a hearing loss is both unjust and unfair. You question why it happened to you and why not someone else. You become more resentful the more you compare yourself to others – that you believe should have been given this bad news but were not – the angrier you become. You may even project this anger and frustration onto others, losing your temper at even the most trivial things.
You might never have given much thought to your faith, but the loss of your hearing could likely change this. You might find yourself bargaining with a higher power. Often the trade-offs are unrealistic, “I will donate to charity for the ability to hear, or I will be kinder to people if my hearing is normal again”.
Bargaining is not an issue when faced with the diagnosis of a hearing loss, it is rather common to seek a way out of your current medical diagnosis. Bargaining becomes problematic when you believe you can buy your way out of your hearing loss. That can lead you to financial burdens that would not have occurred before your hearing loss diagnosis.
Once you realize that there cannot be a successful exchange, that can give back your normal hearing, guilt sets in. It does this as a way for you to gain control of the situation. When guilt takes over, you might believe that it is your fault that you have a hearing loss. You might identify all the times you listened to loud music with the volume at maximum, or consider all the times you did not wear hearing protectors in noisy environments. Your past lifestyle choices, such as smoking, might even be to blame.
You become resigned to the fact that your hearing loss is all your fault and there is no one to blame but yourself. The feeling of guilt leads to new feelings.
As soon as the reality of the hearing loss sinks in, an overwhelming sadness may suddenly overcome you. You realize that all attempts to resist your current situation were useless. You did not achieve anything by denying, bargaining, or guilting yourself about your hearing loss. You feel defeated in your efforts to regain your hearing abilities. You note that to hear naturally was a gift, that you no longer have. As a result, this crushing and strong sensation is too great, and you cannot take it anymore. You now find yourself in a state of depression.
This can be the most difficult stage to reach. Once you become fully aware that you have a hearing loss, and you are neither angry nor depressed then acceptance can occur.
Previous circumstances you have beaten, stories of others who also have a hearing loss, and an adequate support system influence your ability to accept your diagnosis. Acceptance of a loss of hearing is about the ability to use all of life’s experiences and circumstances to reach an understanding of the world, at your own time.
Grieving is a normal process we go through when we experience loss, and this is no different to the loss of your hearing. It would be considered unusual if you did not grieve or display a form of sadness. The important thing is to not allow yourself to be completely lost in the grieving process that takes over every part of your life.
Here’s a free downloadable infographic that summarizes the stages of grief you may experience when you find out that you have a hearing loss.
It does not benefit you to deny, and it won’t help to try to fight it. It is better to go with the emotion as that allows for healing and acceptance. Grief is a natural process, that we all need to go through during loss. Your family, friends, and healthcare professionals are your support system that can make the grieving process an easier one. Let it out, but do not let it consume you. It is okay to grieve the loss of your hearing, everyone does it.