How I Cope with Depression and Hearing Loss

Lipreading Mom has a confession to make: I live with clinical depression.

In fact, severe depression can be traced back at least four generations in my family. This is yet one experience I share in my book, Confessions of a Lipreading Mom.

imageOne thing I’ve learned about depression and hearing loss:

It can be managed.

Notice I didn’t write ‘cured,’ ‘healed,’ or ‘ignored.’ There are rare instances in which a person finds permanent relief from the symptoms of depression. But for most of us, managing the symptoms is a much more attainable goal. And forget ignoring the illness. I attempted to do that for 30 years. But depression, whether associated with hearing loss or not, refuses to be swept under the carpet.

So I finally dealt with it.

I began medical treatment. Started counseling. Rearranged my schedule to reduce stress. Sought out friends and family who understood.

Did the depression go away? Nope, it’s still part of my daily life as Lipreading Mom, but the darkness has lifted most days so that I can feel and function in a healthy way. It’s my work in progress.

Can you relate?

“Ben’s” Letter to Lipreading Mom

Dear Lipreading Mom,

What do you do about depression? I started losing my hearing about six years ago and it has gotten worse I can tell I have hearing aids and I am coping (I teach so sometimes it’s difficult). But I find myself, especially in the mornings/night worrying, and I know there’s nothing I can do about it…but I become depressed thinking about losing more hearing. This is the first medical issue I’ve ever had and it has made me feel very vulnerable. Any suggestions? There are no hearing support groups anywhere near me. I’ve gotten so scared that I’m afraid to have my hearing retested. It’s impacting my happiness.

-Ben (not his real name) 

Dear Ben,

Thank you for your words. You have my sympathies and understanding with your situation. Depression is common among people with adult-onset hearing loss. Although my hearing loss was diagnosed 12 years ago, the big “D” has been another health issue I’ve experienced. While there may not be a local hearing loss support group where you live, I encourage you to visit an online hearing loss support group. One I’ve visited is Open Chat Night at www.openchatnight.com. Also, visit the Hearing Loss Association of America site (www.hearingloss.org) for tips on coping with hearing loss and depression. Some things that may be helpful in coping with hearing loss-related depression:

  • Talk to your family doctor and/or audiologist about your depression. You may be referred to a counselor who specializes in coping with hearing loss depression and grief. I found that for many years, I grieved the hearing that I used to have. The counselor pointed me to a grief support group and discussed medical options should I choose them.
  •  Write down your thoughts about hearing loss. I’ve kept journals for years, and this writing allowed me to express my worries, fears and sadness in a tangible way. It was much better for me to write about these feelings than to suppress them.
  • Pursue the hobbies/interests you enjoy that don’t necessarily require “perfect” hearing. Although phone conversations are difficult for me, I enjoy meeting friends one-on-one for coffee. I also enjoy regular exercise and have found that it curbs some of the depression. Other ideas: Reading, crossword puzzles, bike riding, woodworking.
  • Realize that you are not alone with hearing loss. The more you accept the loss, the more likely you will be open to others about it. And the more I’ve shared about my hearing loss with others, the more people have opened up to me about their hearing concerns.

With time, you may discover how your hearing loss can be a way to encourage and connect with others in a similar circumstance. Your experiences and wisdom are and will be important.

Please keep me posted.

-Lipreading Mom

Readers—Do you have a comment or suggestion about depression and hearing loss? Post it below.

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7 thoughts on “How I Cope with Depression and Hearing Loss

  1. As a former social worker my observation is this:

    The unknown is more terrifying than the known. “Here there be dragons.”

    Clinical Biological depression (which is heritable) is different from Clinical Situational depression caused by an event or events. Both can be managed; both are managed a bit differently.

    Situational depression responds best (generally) to CBT. Why? Because depression requires the act of “depressing” and therefore, being in the moment is very important. If you are living moment to moment you (generic you) is not depressing about the “what might have beens” and the “what ifs.” If you are okay in the moment, or happy in that moment, build on it rather than projecting a worst case scenario (the act of depressing).

    As I have never heard well – just hear more poorly over time – I don’t have the same grief/loss issues. However, as a former Death and Dying counselor I can tell you that all the same stages of loss apply to any loss – sight, hearing, a job, etc. Therefore a trained counselor in grief/loss is helpful as is one skilled in CBT.

    I agree with Shanna’s recommendations about pursuing things you can do without hearing – or perfect hearing. Easy enough for an introvert like me, but very difficult for an extravert. Consider CAPTEL for phone conversations if they are beyond what one can do. If you are willing to learn American Sign Language, do so. Find a Deaf Community and you’ll find friends there. Learn lipreading.

    I also find that being open and honest with others about hearing loss is important. I used to kiddingly refer to myself as the Poster Child for Hearing Loss because I am so open about it. The more others know the better they can understand and respond.

    Also, be aware you are not alone. There are millions of us and every year we age more join us.

  2. Pingback: MENTAL HEALTH: Number of kids facing problems worrisome | Being Happy By Design

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