Anxiety and Hearing Loss, my story

image by w.holcombe. all rights reserved

I’m having severe anxiety issues surrounding my hearing loss. I’ve been trying to do research on the subject and I’ve found quite a few articles that mention anxiety and hearing loss but I don’t feel that they go into enough detail. Every article I found only spoke of hearing loss and anxiety with the elderly. There are many reasons one may lose their hearing other than age. I lost my hearing quickly from an illness. The articles all speak of getting a device to for your hearing loss to relieve anxiety. I got my first cochlear implant (CI) almost as soon as I lost my hearing, my assissitive devise has not taken away my anxiety. I do not know if my anxiety would be higher if I did not have my CI’s and lived in a completely silent world all the time or not, I never have. But I can tell you that my anxiety has risen significantly since I lost my hearing.

At first I didn’t realize I had anxiety due to my hearing loss. I knew I had anxiety due to the sudden attacks of vertigo so I simply attributed much of it to that. I can say that both have been a big part of my life for years now, but at this time in my life, I’m not as concerned about the vertigo. Not because I don’t have it, but because I deal with it much better. I’m not so freaked out by an attack, I can deal with it if it happens and I rarely have attacks as severe as the attacks I used to have on a regular basis. I’ve come to realize that the majority of my anxiety now stems from my hearing loss.

Many people believe that with my CI’s I can now hear normally, that is far from the truth. It also confuses people because I can hear fairly well in a quiet place, I can also hear certain people much better than others (it depends on the frequency of the person’s voice) this makes it hard for people to understand why I can’t hear under every circumstance. However it is very hard for me to hear when there are 2 or more people talking, or when a person has an accent or someone has facial hair or doesn’t move their mouth much, or puts their hands in front of their mouth…. I simply cannot understand speech in a lot of situations. Most of the time I am completely lost in a noisy environment. How am I supposed to socialize?

I often just smile and nod, or I chime in at an inappropriate time and get embarrassed afterward. Sometimes I talk too much, after all if I’m talking then no one else can so I’m not missing anything. There’s a problem there too, often people will chime in and I’m lost again, and I seem very rude. So normally I look at Stuart for cues and ask occasionally if there is something I need to know. It’s not a pleasant experience and it is very anxiety provoking. Imagine sitting at a table where everyone is talking and you have no idea what is being said. You simply eat your meal and wait until it’s time to leave. Since moving to Tucson there have been numerous times that we have gone out to eat with the family that includes between 7 and 9 people. We’ve been to extremely noisy restaurants and we’ve been to quiet restaurants, it makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, they seem to only want to go to the noisy places so I normally bow out of those outings.

When we had them to our home I did have the children sit at a different place than the adults which reduced the noise but our dining room does not have carpet so it echoes, that makes hearing harder. However, one person kind of dominated the conversation so I kept up pretty well, I did miss some and Stuart caught me up on that later, which I thought “when did that happen” but since I was in my home it was not as bad. But my anxiety leading up to that dinner brought on a full blown panic attack. I will not go through that again. I’m not sure dinner with the whole family together is worth it to me.

There are many other things that cause me anxiety around my hearing loss:

  • sleeping alone in the house – I can’t hear the smoke alarm or anything else.
  • being in a store I can’t hear when anyone is around me
  • I can’t hear when someone calls my name
  • I can’t hear when someone comes up behind me
  • I often can’t hear if someone knocks on the door.
  • I can’t hear emergency vehicles.
  • I can’t hear the GPS
  • I meet someone and tell them I’m deaf and they begin to use ASL
  • ….

I realized recently that my anxiety over driving is not totally the action of driving itself, although living in a new town and not being able to hear the GPS is pretty bad, it is also the anxiety of what happens when I get there.

The last time I drove I went to Whole Foods. a whole 1 mile from my home, I got there and was fine, I went to get a basket and found a phone in my basket. I knew I had to take it in and find someone to turn it in to. Anxiety started. I found someone as soon as I walked in the door as she was returning glasses do someone who had left them at a register, we exchanged pleasantries and I walked away not really knowing what she said but I knew it was nice and hoped I had responded appropriately. As I walked the aisles looking for my groceries I was acutely aware of the people around me but still one person came up behind me, and another came around a corner and I did not hear either before the were right on me. When I got to the register I had to tell her I had profound hearing loss and had to see her lips, she went on to say how wonderful it was that I could read lips and I have no idea what else she said, I paid for my groceries and left. When I walked outside I was still shaken but the day was beautiful and I saw a lady I saw when I went in who was eating her lunch and I decided I wanted to put myself out there for just a bit (my therapist would be proud) she was reading a real book and I commented how nice it was to see that, she said how much she loved real books and I went on my way. I only spoke to her because it was quiet out and I was sure I would know her response, and I did. At least I’m pretty sure I did. However, when I got in my car I realized I was shaking. I felt the car vibrating like it was running but I hadn’t started it. I looked around to see if big truck had gone by, but the only thing I could attribute it to was me.

When reading over the articles about anxiety and hearing loss the suggestions they give to help include getting a hearing assistive device like a hearing aid, give the device a change, see a therapist, ask family and friends to help what you need to hear easier, get a hearing dog, get involved in a hearing loss association…

So out of those suggestions, I have a device that I’ve had for nearly 6 years, I give them a chance every day. I have not shied away from situations. (Although a I have started to). I have a therapist. Stuart helps me, I’ve asked others to understand and help but most do not even attempt to help, I’m considering a hearing dog, but I need to make sure we can take on the added responsibility of caring for another dog, I have been involved in a hearing loss association in the past and I’ve looked into it here in Tucson but my anxiety simply hasn’t allowed me to do it yet. (If it’s like the last association I’m not sure I’ll feel like I belong)

Studies, sited below, have shown that hearing loss is related to anxiety, depression, social isolation, and demetia.

We need to work with those with hearing loss to help them integrate with main stream society better so they do not feel so left out. We need to help them understand they are just as viable and cared for as they were before their hearing loss.

Ryan, Cynthia. Link Between Untreated Hearing Loss & Mental Health. Vestibular Disorders Association. Sept. 13, 2014. https://vestibular.org/news/09-13-2012/link-between-untreated-hearing-loss-mental-health

DeWane, Caludia. Hearing Loss in Older Adults-Its Effect on Mental Health. Social Work Today. July, 2010. http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/071510p18.shtml

Alzheimer’s Association. What is Dementia? Oct. 1, 2014. http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp

Boyles, Salynn. Hearing Loss Linked to Mental Decline in Elderly. WebMD Health News. Jan. 22, 2013. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20130118/hearing-loss-mental-decline

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30 thoughts on “Anxiety and Hearing Loss, my story

  1. blindzanygirl

    Wendy, this is a BRILLIANT post, explaining SO well what it is like to have hearing loss. I felt so much that you were describing me too, as a blindnperson. The isolation is horrible, and many of the things that cause you problems cayse me priblems too. Like meals out, jouning in conversations etc. I had never thought of fear of being alone in the house because you would not hear the fire alarm if it went off. I too am very very afraid of being alone in the house, but for other reasons. It can be a real problem because sometimes you HAVE to be alone in the house. But I get the most terruble panic attacks when Imknow that my husband has to go out and leave me. I get panic attacks at going to steange places too. Or even at going to places that are notvsteange. I can relate to so much of what you say Wendy, and also to people not understanding. Not only that, but they don’t guve you a chance to explain the priblems so that they can better help you. This is just such a brilliant wrote Wendy. Sending you much live and many many hugs. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Lorraine. I knew you would understand. ❤ I’m sorry I havent been in touch, I caught hubby’s cold and it took me all day to write this post. My brain feels broken. Will be in touch soon. Losing a sense gives us much in common. Love to you my dear. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. blindzanygirl

        Don’t you worry about not being in touch Wendy. Whenever. I am sorry you caught your husband’s cold. You can both do without that! Yes I understand so MUCH of what you said. It is a breat post Wendy, and so glad you made it. Thankyou for persevering all that time in making it . Lots of love to you xxxx

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Dorothy Murphey

    Wendy

    Thank you for your update. Like I said before I wish we lived closer! Big hugs and kisses to the whole family. Zia Dot

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a fantastic post. I think people believe that solutions to whatever problems we have are simple, cheap or that insurance MUST cover it. Because everyone simply must have insurance by now that helps with everything, right?

    Aging automatically brings with it concerns and worries. But when you have an illness or disability, there are extra stresses that bring anxiety and fear. And sometimes, there are no easy solutions. (or they are expensive or not covered)

    I wish there was some wonderful advice I could give you but you are already ahead of me with your research. I do wish you resolutions to your anxiety so that it is greatly reduced.

    Love ya!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I should have stressed that I am working on it, I have a new therapist, and a new psychiatrist that I like a lot so far. Hopefully I can learn better coping skills along with a little pharmaceutical help.
      I’m trying to push myself a little bit more, but my therapist says not too much just yet. One step at a time. Things got a lot worse once we moved here. Family stuff, house stuff, simply relocating….I’ve been overwhelmed and feel guilty about it.
      Enough about that for now.
      Will chat with you real soon.
      Love to you and G

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pen Wize

    I sure can relate to a lot of this. Sigh. I actually have very good hearing. However, I also have ADHD so when I am in noisy restaurants I cannot even hear the person next to me. Because of my ADHD, I can’t filter out background noise so I too, miss the majority of conversation and do a lot of smiling and nodding. Although I can relate in this way to you, I cannot imagine not being able to hear the GPS and experience the other things you do. No wonder you have anxiety. I wish I knew how to make it better. All I can think to do is send you a virtual hug and hope you can get that hearing dog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for you kind words and that virtual hug, both are appreciated. I wish I knew how to make it better for you. Sending you a virtual hug too. w

      Like

    2. An excellent post. I feel I understand your anxiety and your hearing loss so much more now.
      I hope you find the right best combination of coping skills. Sometimes, medication is necessary. Having a good therapy source and such a supportive spouse is good.
      Wishing you all the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Wendy, I didn’t realise you have hearing loss, I’m sorry to hear that it’s bringing you much anxiety – the anxiety is understandable.

    I suppose people are too busy and in their ignorant cocoon of able-bodyness, unless they’re sensitive, cannot begin to understand how it can be for people struggling with disabilities, thus making communication difficult. (Before, I could never have fathomed the severe relentless pain I now have. But then I never took advantage and parked my car in a disabled bay). There are those, of course, who have no time to properly give you a moment to relate to them. They lack compassion. Whilst sitting in my mobility scooter I’ve come across those who speak to/treat me as if I’m a child and I know I’m not alone in that. Socially, it must be awful not knowing what someone has said or not being able to keep up in a group conversation.

    I’m a light-sleeper and sometimes wear ear plugs. I can imagine your anxiety not knowing if someone is, when out of sight, suddenly behind you. Also, not knowing whether alarms are sounding off or not. Etc etc.

    “We need to work with those with hearing loss to help them integrate with main stream society better so they do not feel so left out.” – Yes, I agree. And I think that applies to all disabilities. That people with different disabilities ought to become less visible and more inclusive.

    Love to you. All the best with your hearing loss situation. xox

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Once we were in a hotel and there was a fire alarm in the middle if the night, this was a hearing accessible room so bright lights flashed and very loud horns blared, I had on a mask because S was reading when I fell asleep and he had to shake me awake. I had no idea there was anything happening. We had no idea if there was a fire or not, if there had been I honestly do not know if I would have awakened. There is no way my home alarm would wake me. That frightens me, but with my insomnia I have to sleep some when S is not here.

      I often feel family and friends no longer care if I’m included, I’m not important. As you said, no one with a disability should be made to feel that way.

      About my hearing loss, I am deaf without my cochlear implants, I lost my hearing due to Meniere’s disease less than 6 years ago. It’s something that can happen eventually and gradually with Meniere’s, most people do not completely lose their hearing and it is normally in one ear and a slow progression. Mine is both ears and happened very rapidly. I’m an oddity.

      Thank you for your kindness.
      Love to you. xoxo. w

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You always do such a great job of helping me to understand what you are going through. As you are a wonderful spokesperson for others who have such challenges. I have a deaf friend locally and this will help me with communicating with her. Bravo for getting out there and for being true to yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I had no idea! Wow, incredible post. I’m ashamed that I am so in the dark about what you go through. Wow. It all makes perfect sense that these things connect. I have to re-read this! Thank you for helping me to understand. I will be much more aware, thanks to you, Wen. 💜

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Wow, I see myself in this post but as the person who immediately apologizes for not knowing ASL rather than starting to speak it. I’m glad, too – I never thought to ask what would be helpful for someone with a hearing impairment rather than assuming all is lost because I don’t know how to sign. I think part of me is always so afraid of offending a person that I forget that it’s okay to be straightforward and ask “what do you need” or “what would make this easier for you?”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so thrilled that you got this out of this post!! I plan 2 follow up post 1about some anxiety coping skills and 1 about things one can do to help a person with hearing loss. It’s never wrong to ask any person what they need to make a situation more comfortable. Thank you so much for this comment!!
      xo

      Like

  9. Wendy, what an amazing post that was so informative that I now have a better understanding, as an outsider, what you and others with your issue, go through. I am so sorry, this must be very difficult to deal with yet you write with such grace and beauty. Thank you so sharing part of yourself with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Wendy,
    What a wonderful post. You have explained so well, exactly what it feels like for someone with hearing loss, and how isolating it can be.
    The struggle in trying to follow or be part of conversation in a noisy environment is something that makes me feel incredibly lonely and frustrated. I try to avoid these types of events now and prefer to meet friends on a one-to-one basis so we can talk more easily.
    I also am always on edge in the supermarket. I am constantly checking around me in case someone has spoken to me. Many times I’ve turned around and seen someone giving me a look that suggests they have addressed me and they haven’t answered – I don’t like people thinking I’m rude.
    Ugh, the list goes on doesn’t it!
    I hope people will read your post and gain an insight into some of the issues that people with hearing loss are dealing with every day.
    Hoping you’re feeling better from the cold.
    Lots of love
    Carly x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, about being rude…I keep saying I’m going to make a shirt that says “I’m not rude I’m deaf” on the back. Or maybe a vest, just put it on everytime I go to a store. LOL
      It is a struggle, It’s how things are now, I’m trying to wrap my head around ways to better deal with that.
      Hope you are well.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Good job i only realised how sensitive i am when i started my first part time job. The day i got to get in touch with the outside world, communicating with normal outsiders.. and bravely heads out to talk to order.. i am still sensitive as now but im still trying to think more positive. Thank for posting out on Hearing Loss!

    Liked by 1 person

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