I’ve been there before, lip reading, cupping my ears, ensuring I sit as close to the front row (or in it) as possible. Nodding my head and smiling. Laughing because others are laughing.
Coping strategies and pretending to hear often go together, and like me, you’ve probably employed them when you weren’t sure what hearing aids can do for you. Well, I’ve spent the last three years of my life thriving with hearing aids, and I can now look back at these coping strategies and define all but one as “ineffectual.”
Let’s start with the one coping strategy that can be helpful first.
Lip reading – good when paired with hearing aids
Lip reading is a coping strategy for those with hearing loss that can become an extremely powerful and helpful tool when paired with properly fitted hearing aids. When you lip read without hearing aids, your brain is functioning in overtime trying to make sense of jumbled sounds and each persons’ unique way of talking. It’s exhausting! And, when you’re relying on lip reading as your primary tool, you can often make critical mistakes.
But, I like lip reading with hearing aids! It can often help to properly identify words and sounds faster, and for those like me with an extremely severe hearing loss, lip reading is especially helpful in environments where the noise overpowers even my innovative Starkey hearing aids.
Cupping your ears – not worth it
I didn’t use this method much, but I’ve seen my father and uncle resort to this coping strategy. The idea behind this is to better funnel sound into the ear. Cupping a hand around your ear may help in extremely noisy situations or when trying to listen to whispered secrets, but even then, with hearing loss, you’re still losing important spatial and speech cues necessary for accurate understanding.
Nodding your head and fake smiling – you’re only hurting yourself
Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. In this case, I learned that it’s better to speak up and ask people to repeat themselves 50 times versus nodding along like you’re hearing everything. Why? Well, by nodding and smiling, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. If you’re out with friends, you’re missing the real joy of interacting and engaging in the group’s conversation. If you’re at work in a meeting, you could miss important points and even what tasks you’re assigned.
Finally, as time goes on and you continue to do this, it’s exhausting. It’s not fun to fake your life. And, as you continue to act like you’re hearing, you’re only depriving yourself of the fullness of friendship, family, love, success and other personal enjoyments.
Laughing because others are laughing – things could get tricky
This plays up to the strategy above. Laughing along when others are laughing is the same as faking a smile and nodding as though you heard what another person is saying. You’re missing out, and that only hurts you. Furthermore, what others are laughing at may be something you shouldn’t laugh at – a cruel joke at someone else’s expense, for example. In the end, don’t watch for others to laugh before you do. Give yourself the opportunity to hear the joke, enjoy the joke and truly experience the freeing joy of authentic laughter.
Why cope when you don’t have to?
Every person with hearing loss has used one or more coping methods during their life. We’ve all been there, felt at times that we need to, but in the end, life is so much richer and fuller with hearing aids. I had to learn the hard way – it took me more than 10 years of suffering through coping methods before I tried treating my hearing loss. And now, after three years of hearing in meetings, laughing when I hear the joke, actually engaging in conversations and making positive memories instead of embarrassing moments, I can confidently say that no coping method is worth it.
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