General Question

6rant6's avatar

Has deafness changed your family dynamic?

Asked by 6rant6 (13692points) December 21st, 2011

Someone in my family is going deaf and prefers not to use hearing aids. I know that she suffers as a result of the loss. So do those around her.

Do you have anyone in your family losing their hearing? How has it affected interactions?

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24 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I have hearing damage. I wore hearing aids for a while, but they squeaked and itched and continually bothered me. It does interfere with conversations in the family.

A bigger problems is I have an issue in interpreting/deciphering what I hear. Sometimes I hear something just fine, but it sounds completely non-sensical. Often when I respond back to what I heard my kids think I am crazy because that’s not what they said.

6rant6's avatar

@zenvelo Have you noticed yourself holding back, or your camily communicating fewer things to you?

comity's avatar

My husband is slowing down in many ways including his hearing. He’s an ex marine extremely proud of his strength, abilities, and it has been so hard to get him to purchase hearing aids. He finally broke down last year but seldom uses them. He’s isolated because of his lack of hearing and his slowing down, but he still enjoys reading, TV and his computer. If he could hear it would probably connect him better to others, but I don’t think he really cares at this point. Its hard to get others to do what you want. Talk to that person about how you feel, and if you can’t change the situation, try as best as possible to work around it IMHO.

Sunny2's avatar

My husband claims he only hears 50% of what I say. I know I’m soft spoken, but when I raise my voice, I feel like I’m yelling. He doesn’t have a hearing aid because the kind that might work for him is very expensive and he doesn’t feel we can afford it. (Others have too much ambient sound) So we probably talk less. He’ll tell me what he hears sometimes and it’s way off from what I said, which he knows because it’s a nonsense sentence. I wish medicare covered hearing aids.

zenvelo's avatar

@6rant6 No, partly because I initiate conversations with my kids. They’re teens, so they tend to be hormonally reticent.

filmfann's avatar

I actually have the reverse problem. My wife, who was born deaf, has just had surgery to place a cochlear implant, so soon she will be able to hear all the shit that comes out of my mouth.
We have three children, but only one really takes the time to communicate with her mother. It can be very fustraiting for her.

AmWiser's avatar

Yeah! My Mom has the audacity to be vain at the age of 92. She refuses to even go and have her hearing checked. So we just keep raising our voices. It doesn’t bother her that it bothers us.:D

@filmfann that is great news, but I’m sure your wife has always been able to read your lips. LOL!

6rant6's avatar

@filmfann That sounds like a fascinating story. I hope we’ll hear more about it.

King_Pariah's avatar

I am partially deaf thanks to a grenade (and grateful that that’s really all it did minus some minor internal injuries), anyway it hasn’t changed interactions all that much minus that I may have to ask family members to repeat what they said

gailcalled's avatar

After a bad fall in 2006, I discovered that I had fractured the stapes bone (smallest bone in the body).

I had three unsuccessful stapedectomies to replace the fractured bone with a titanium prosthesis. All three surgeries failed, so reluctantly I saw an audiologist and bought a hearing aid for my bad ear.

It was an analog device and very annoying. So, several years later, when the digital ones came out, I replaced it and am very happy.

They are costly but do provide very good amplification and not-too-annoying white noise or feedback. The hardest situation is in a crowded room where there is also music playing.

Wearing it makes my life much more pleasant. I use something similar to this from

However, as I said, I still have one ear with hearing that is normal for my age.

This is money well-spent and worth sacrificing other purchases for. It does make a difference between isolation and being able to enjoy socializing.

On the day of my mother’s funeral, I forgot to put the aid in and spent a very difficult and long day with family with whom I
found it difficult to talk to.

My mother, until she died recently at 96, wore her two aids daily. We had trained her how to take care of them, replace the batteries, or how to go to the nurse in her residence if she needed help. Her life would have been a solitary and lonely one without them.

Cosmetically, they are almost invisible.

comity's avatar

And, if you are a veteran, as of March 2010 you can get excellent quality hearing aids from the VA which my husband did.

gailcalled's avatar

PS. After my mother died, we gave the electronic portion of each of her aids to two different elderly friends. They had to pay to have the custom ear mold made, but they saved at least $2000.

I am told that the LIons Club also have reused or refurbished aids. Check out your local chapter.

linguaphile's avatar

I have been profoundly deaf since I was almost 3 so I really don’t know any other way to be. I respect @filmfann‘s wife’s choice to get a cochlear implant—some deaf people want to hear and opt for CI’s for various reasons. I will never get one as I much, much prefer to be deaf and am very happy to function in this way. I am part of a close-knit international community of sign language users and love my community. Some people in the sign language community use CI’s, some don’t—the ones who don’t are like me and have no interest in hearing. The only thing I’d like is to be able to hear music, but I’ve found ways to appreciate music without hearing.

Baby’s cry, daughter saying, “Mommy,” birds in trees—people think I have lost something, but I can see them and because I depend on my eyes so much, my visual identification skills are enhanced and I deeply appreciate what I see. I understand those sounds are out there but… how many people zoom through life taking their eyes and ears for granted and don’t appreciate them. I might not hear, but I sure as hell appreciate what I see, feel and how I interact with others. Except for a few moments here and there, I don’t feel isolated or at a loss…but then again, how many people can hear, but do feel isolated and at a loss from time to time?

A lot of people see deaf as DIS ABLED. That means, not able. That’s a way of looking at people from a deficit model— “You do not have the function of one tiny organ so you are NOT able.” Uhmm…really?! How about all the other organs, cells and functions of my body, i.e. my brain? They’re just fine. What do I have? I have my language, my hobbies, my family, my thoughts, ideas, passions, stubbornnesses, my friends, education, home, car, athletic ability, dancing ability, arms, legs, eyes, nose, ability to play the drums, etc etc! I have, so I do not, in any way, consider myself disabled. It’s only with those that aren’t willing to communicate with me that I become “not able” in one area of my life- I approach all people with the desire and ablility to communicate, but if they block my attempts, they disable me, not the other way around.

My question is… I don’t have my ears, but I have many other things… everyone is lacking something but they are not disabled? If that perception changes, I think everyone will be more comfortable with “disabled” people. (and by god, don’t call me differently able.) This concept applies to the other “disabilities,” too.

If anything it’s my shyness that “disables” me far more than my hearing loss.

It is very different for people who are losing their hearing—that’s different—they know what they’re missing and are losing that access slowly. That’s hard, very hard. I don’t know to live with hearing, so I don’t feel any loss.

If someone does not want to get surgery, does not want hearing aids, then there are many different ways to bypass communication barriers. I’ll stop here—if y’all want more information, I’ll be happy to share.

6rant6's avatar

@linguaphile I once tried to put together a production of “Children of a Lesser God,” here locally. I recognized in myself that I was afraid of deaf people, because my words are so important to me, and the inability to communicate in my natural way was scary. But I thought it was a beautiful play.

I did not think that deaf people were “less.” I fully recognize that being deaf – especially from childhood – causes the brain to adapt. More of it is devoted to other things. I fully appreciate that deaf people should have stronger skills in other areas made possible by deafness.

I fully understand that people deaf from childhood would not have the experience those of us who have heard all our lives have even if their ears were fixed. Our brains change to accommodate what we have, what we can do, and what we have done.

All of this is a preface to this: I went to an ASL group, which was primarily deaf people, to ask for help with my play. I was looking for deaf actors, since they would understand the things that I couldn’t. I was stunned by the hostility they returned. Somehow, they saw my wanting their help as a slam against them.

I’m pretty sure that the frustration expressed in your response comes from real experience of people treating you as “disabled.” But we don’t all think that way. My question certainly had nothing to do with people who have lived their life as you have. But people who have lived their lives as hearing folk, have never learned ASL, and have never had their brains develop in the ways that yours have are not like you. The decision not to use hearing aids cuts them off from their families, and makes it hard to accomplish basic things, like communicating with a doctor, getting directions, or buying clothes.

I am sure that your experience can shed light on the problems people face as they lose hearing with age. But please, recognize that your personal experience is not an analog to theirs. They are disabled. And they don’t want to be.

Bellatrix's avatar

My husband suffers hearing loss. He won’t get any sort of hearing aid to improve his hearing. It mostly only affects him when there is a lot of ambient noise. When we go out in a group, he often sits quietly and if I notice (to my shame I don’t always) it is obvious he feels isolated from the group. He doesn’t say anything about it though. At other times, especially after we have flown, I may have to repeat myself often and I do find it frustrating.

One of our Disability Officers is deaf and most of the time, I forget. She is so adept at managing it herself I guess. I am so grateful for her input into my work though because she is great at helping me to make sure, as much as I can, our materials are accessible to people with a range of challenges.

@filmfann, there was a BBC TV series called The Silence about a girl who witnesses a murder. She is deaf and has just had a cochlear implant. It was interesting because it also covered very well (I thought) the frustration she went through adapting to hearing and dealing with the reactions of her family. It seemed to me, it portrayed really well how confusing and frightening it could be to go from a quiet world to a world full of noise and learning to tune out the irrelevant.

comity's avatar

@linguaphile I found your story to be very interesting and enlightening. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t have the greatest eyes now, (he’s 76) cognitively he has some difficulty and the inability to hear has affected the quality of his life. He is one of the slightly disabled elderly. But, I must say, he still smiles and enjoys the things he can do.

linguaphile's avatar

@6rant6 If I came across as hostile then I need to clarify—I don’t feel hostile at all, but more enthusiastic or animated, if that makes sense.

I do disagree that late-deafened people are disabled… some of us encounter life-changes and it doesn’t have to be disabling. I have had life-changes on top of my hearing loss and I had to adapt—and the ability to adapt in itself defeats a disability. Just my opinion.

I am very familiar with the hostility that you encountered and I am disappointed that was your experience. In “Children of a Lesser God,” Sarah has one monologue where she explains where her words belong, why she doesn’t want James to speak for her, but prefers Orin to interpret for her—that, to me is the best part of the play :)

I can only explain the hostility as a form of defensiveness. Aristotle said all deaf were incapable of reason, St. Augustine said our souls were trapped and we’d go to hell because we couldn’t hear the word of God, the Talmud said not to trip deaf people, but don’t allow them to own property- it goes on and on. From 1812–1880, the deaf in the US enjoyed a sort of renaissance, but AG Bell took care of that with the telephone (which he discovered while he was trying to make a hearing aid). AG Bell was also rich, wanted Congress to ban marriages among deaf people and was a strong advocate of eugenics—he wanted deafness eradicated and his organization is still working on that goal. Ususlly, when hearing people show up, often it’s either to offer a cure, to ogle us, to convert/save us, or to heeeelp, when we don’t feel we need help. When hearing people come into the deaf community, and their intentions are not clear, then hostility usually is the first line of defense because of over 2000 years of ostracization and oppression (compare that number to other minorities…). It might not be right to be hostile, but if you can see where it started and why, then maybe you can understand it a little?

I know it is very hard for a lot of people to wrap their minds around the fact that many deaf people do live within the hearing world, and choose to, but millions choose not to. They prefer to live in the Deaf world and within the Deaf culture. The details of the Deaf culture is a huge discussion right there—but it’s a sort of acquired culture similiar to that acquired by GLBTQ people when they choose to live within the GLBTQ culture. It’s not a culture transmitted from parent to child, like ethnic or nationality cultures, but a culture acquired by participation. (Like Fluther??) Many late-deafened people do join the Deaf culture and get a lot of help adapting.

Prior to 1880, all of our deaf schools in the US used sign language and for many deaf, it is the most accessible way to communicate. To illustrate my point, I took speech and lipreading classes for 14 years but all that became moot when I moved to a region that used a different accent—I might as well have never taken speech. Some deaf people who have some hearing would be able to adapt to new accents, but me? Ha. That was an eye-opener. When I use ASL, I don’t have to struggle, guess, or sound stupid no matter how hard I try to speak clearly. Clear, intelligent-sounding speech with proper prosody, accenting and intonation is not accessible to me and is NOT accessible to most deaf people. A stunted form of speech is accessible to me but people WILL believe I am not capable of intelligent thought because I cannot speak clearly- hearing people judge each other within 3 seconds by their speech- that’s proven, so what extent will I be given sounding like I do? In ASL- intellect, prosody, intonation, humor, animation, energy, meaning and depth is fully and thoroughly available and accessible to me. I know not all late-deaf would want to learn signs, but knowing a few signs can go a long way.

I hope, again, that I don’t seem hostile. I give workshops and panels at least 4 times a year and am extremely willing to talk openly about what’s on the other side. After all, most hearing people rarely encounter a signing deaf person, while we deal with hearing people all the time :D

harple's avatar

My ageing Dad has very poor hearing, and now does wear hearing aids, but they don’t mean he hears perfectly, just better than he would without them.

My Mum can get frustrated repeating herself all the time, and in return Dad can get frustrated because he simply cannot hear.

I have found that so long as I say “Dad” first and get his attention prior to talking, in addition to ensuring I speak a little louder and clearly, then he hears fine and I don’t need to repeat myself… It’s predominantly my responsibility to ensure he hears me.

6rant6's avatar

@linguaphile I still hear in your reply the hostility borne of repetitive “put downs” around your deafness. Note that I do not fit that category. I was rude __before__ I knew you were deaf.

But seriously, when you encounter people who aren’t steeped in nineteenth century lore, who don’t mistakenly think that deafness is incapacitating, who do recognize that in some ways, deaf people have __enhanced__ capabilities I don’t think you should bring out the same shopworn stories and ancient history. And I mean ancient literally, here. You’re preaching to the signing performance group.

You can see how confusing it is to people when you assert that your choice of, or acceptance of, a deaf lifestyle somehow makes it okay to say their grampa doesn’t need a hearing aid. It’s not the same; it is unrelated. Their grampa will not live his life in a community of deaf speaking people. He will not learn sign language. He will feel cutoff, isolated, diminished. And those around him will mostly feel the same.

linguaphile's avatar

@6rant6 I’m not sure what’s happening here… You are describing me in a way that I am truly not feeling. You see hostility… I’m sorry but that’s not what I am. If anything, I went a bit off topic about a topic I’m enthusiastic about.

I tried to explain my feelings and perspectives, and tied it in with what I know about late-deafened people. I know a people who are late-deaf, including grandpa/grandma, and they have found ways to continue to interact with others. I did have a suggestion for adapting- I said that sign language would help reduce their isolation, and it will, but it’s one choice, along with hearing aids, CI’s, captioned TV, captioned films, CARTs, sign interpreters, speech interpreters, and other choices. It’s not easy, I already acknowledged that. My being deaf all my life doesn’t discount the fact I am fully aware that losing an ability is not easy.

As for my historical references, I used them to try to explain why you encountered hostility when you did the play. I even said I was disappointed you experienced that. If you want to define me as hostile, go ahead because that’s really not something I can fix. I say I’m this way, you define me differently… seriously, who’s right? Me and how I define my mood, or you? That is not an argument I can win even though it’s my own mood.

If a grandpa/grandpa is lonely, isolated, withdrawn, then I sure hope the people around them can help them find ways to adapt and not feel as disabled. I really believe that is a choice.

You disagree? That’s your right.

comity's avatar

I don’t see hostility just pride in who you are and what you accomplished. And, you may look at the situation differently from the son, daughter or wife of an elderly person who is newly hard of hearing. I’ll listen, maybe I won’t agree, but I certainly don’t take offense at anything you have said. I admire your accomplishments.

6rant6's avatar

@linguaphile Probably “hostility” was a bad word choice on my part. What is the word I mean? The “I’ve been through this so many times that I know what you’re probably thinking and it’s wrong, so let me fill you in before we get off on the wrong foot,” word?

linguaphile's avatar

@6rant6 I give workshops and panels at least 4 times a year and am extremely willing to talk openly about what’s on the other side. It’s a topic I like to share and talk about, but I see your perspective.

Meego's avatar

I know this is about hearing, but honestly I know no one that has such bad hearing they need aid to hear. On the topic of senses tho my husband was completely blind, not legally blind, but blind like he had no visual sight at all, his world was black. He had papiladema(sp). The pressure got so much in his head that it crushed his optic nerves. Before he passed away, the idea of being without that sense bothered him highly. I really think that a persons acceptance level has to do with this and he never accepted he was blind. I think that is what us un aided ppl need to accept, that many sense disabled ppl are more comfortable with what they know, and new things are scary. For my husband the dark was scary. And he held onto that because he knew the hospital could of prevented his loss of sight. This made it very hard for our family because he wanted badly to see the beauty of life his sight was everything, he truly did feel disabled. As he always said to me if he had of been born blind he wouldn’t be missing much.

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