As we age, hearing loss can occur. In fact, advancing age is the most common cause of hearing loss. The realization that our hearing is diminishing brings with it many emotions. Often, we experience denial, and refuse to accept reality. We may feel isolated, and wonder if we are the only ones struggling to hear. We may feel upset because our spouse, friends and relatives act frustrated or angered by having to raise their voices and constantly repeat themselves. At work, missing critical words when conversing with bosses and colleagues can lead to embarrassment and worry.
Surprisingly, support for the psychological effects of hearing loss isn't easy to find. Primary physicians generally don't test for hearing loss, much less advise on what to expect. Friends and relatives often can't “relate”, and support on the job is rare.
But, there is encouragement and help out there. Whether you're a child, teen or adult living with hearing loss, or you're the parent or child of a hearing impaired person, support groups can be of tremendous help.
A support group can be started by a person with hearing loss, or by someone, such as a family member, who is affected by hearing loss. In some cases, support groups are established by nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, or experts in the field of hearing care.
A hearing loss support group can take a variety of forms, including in-person group meetings, or internet forums and “chats”. Online support groups offer friendship, support and networking opportunities for people who can't attend or find local programs. Some online groups have more than 1000 members!
Generally speaking, support group members are hearing impaired and attend regular meetings on a volunteer basis. A professional facilitator—such as a hearing care professional or a psychologist—may lead the group, or, one or more members may take the helm. Some groups take an educational approach and feature speakers, panels and programs. Examples of topics may include hearing aid technology, cochlear implants, and financing options for hearing devices.
Other support groups offer emotional support, coping skills and an open forum to share both positive and negative experiences pertaining to hearing loss. Many members who are wearing hearing aids for the first time enjoy interacting with other hearing aid wearers and learning how to get the most from them. Many family members exchange ways to support their loved ones with hearing loss. And, many support groups offer lip reading lessons. Lip reading especially benefits people with profound hearing loss.
Support groups can also steer you toward the right kind of hearing care professional for your particular caseâ€”such as hearing care practitioners, audiologists, otolaryngologists, cochlear implant surgeons, speech pathologists, etc.
To find a local hearing loss support group, ask your hearing care specialist, or search the internet for a group in your area. Check out the state chapters available from the Hearing Loss Association of America. The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has chapters in 32 states.