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Unseen Suffering: Addressing Mental Distress with Tinnitus

Tinnitus affects more than 20% of Americans across the country, ranging from a mild yet annoying ringing to a debilitating and life-altering condition. Though the bothersome buzzing can reduce the quality of life of those suffering from tinnitus on its own, there is another consequence of tinnitus that often does not get the attention it deserves. Mental distress caused by tinnitus is a serious and dangerous complication, putting a person’s mental health in a precarious position and affecting those from all walks of life. William Shatner, famous actor and star of the Star-Trek TV series, explains in an editorial for the American Tinnitus Association, “Regardless of the characters I portray on TV and on the big screen, my tinnitus once buried me in a negative place where many of you are now – or have been. Believe me when I say, “I’ve been there.” Even with high-profile advocates focusing on mental health associated with Tinnitus, this mental distress is still troublingly absent from many doctor’s offices.

Depression, Anxiety, and Isolation

Like hearing loss, Tinnitus can result in serious mental distress during your day to day activities. Anxiety, depression, and behavior disorders are believed to affect over three-quarters of people living with severe tinnitus, prompting those struggling to isolate themselves, lose sleep, and even suffer from PTSD-like symptoms.
We have all been asked if we had “woken up on the wrong side of the bed.” before, but for those with tinnitus, this expression is sometimes a matter of fact. Insomnia is common with tinnitus, creating a vicious cycle in which sleeping becomes more difficult the more you worry about your tinnitus. Surveys have linked this cycle to irritability, anger, and externalized aggressive behavior.

Self-Harm and Suicide

Unfortunately, tinnitus may lead to even more horrifying outcomes. Due to mental distress, tinnitus has been linked to higher rates of self-harm and suicidal ideation. “It needs to be something audiologists aren’t afraid of. Mental health is not a taboo subject,” said Melissa Wikoff, AuD, for The Hearing Journal, “Sometimes we think the practice of audiology is not life or death. But sometimes with tinnitus, it really can be.”
A 2019 study analyzing the connection between suicide, tinnitus, and parental mental illness had come to a similar conclusion, recommending that hearing health professionals should screen for such ideations in patients, “especially for those with symptoms of depression and a childhood history of parental mental illness.”

Don’t Keep Hidden Distress Hidden For Long

Without receiving the proper help, tinnitus can quickly overwhelm your mental health. The fact that it isn’t widely spoken about is a mistake on the part of the healthcare community, and not one you should suffer from. If you are struggling with mental distress brought on by tinnitus, there is help for you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication such as anti-depressants, and sound therapy are all treatment options that can help tame your tinnitus. As hearing professionals, we all must do better to raise awareness about the very real, yet unseen, aspects of tinnitus.

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New Guideline Updates On What You Need To Know About Sudden Hearing Loss

As we age, we often conclude that our hearing has gotten worse over time. Age-related hearing loss is an incredibly common result of the natural aging process, and most of us understand that our hearing will depreciate as we get older. But what happens when hearing loss comes on all of a sudden without years of build-up? Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL) can be a terrifying symptom for those suffering unexpectedly. Affecting up to 27 for every 100,000 people and over 66,000 new cases in the US annually, understanding what may cause SHL, what signs to look for, and when to seek treatment can help dramatically improve your quality of life and improve hearing recovery.
For these purposes, The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) have published new updates to their SHL guidelines, hoping new information will make a difference according to Seth R. Schwartz, MD, MPH, the methodologist for this update, “Prompt recognition and management of sudden sensorineural hearing loss may improve hearing recovery and quality of life. That is the overarching objective and purpose of this guideline update.”

What Is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Defined as a “rapid-onset subjective sensation of hearing impairment in one or both ears”, SHL can manifest in three ways: Conductive Hearing Loss (CHL), Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL), or a mixture of both occurring in the same ear. CHL occurs when problems transferring sound waves through the outer ear arise, while SNHL is attributed to damaged cochlear sensory cells. Though Conductive Hearing Loss may be brought on by an abnormality in the ear canal, “eardrum”, or middle ear, both types of hearing loss can be brought on by many causes ranging from neurological disorders or infections, to head trauma or exposure to certain medications.
With many risk factors and variables involved, SHL can be a frightening condition to undertake for many patients with lifelong ramifications. If left untreated, an average of 25 to 30% of patients with SSNHL will achieve some level of spontaneous improvement, although not always back to their normal hearing level. If treatment is sought immediately, recovery rates improve to 50% or even more in some cases.

What Updates Have Been Made?

Knowing the importance of early detection and treatment, updates to the AAO-HNSF’s SHL guidelines were vital. Though the 2012 guidelines were crafted with the most current research at the time, medical science is constantly advancing, opening up room for improvement when it comes to treatment. Improvements such as addressing the need to distinguish SSNHL from CHL in patients who have shown initial signs of hearing loss, as well as clarify the need to identify “rare, nonidiopathic, sensorineural hearing loss” to help separate those patients from others who suffer from Idiopathic Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ISSNHL), a target population that this update addresses. Schwartz hopes that these updates will better suit the medical community when treating SHL, concluding “While the original guideline was a big step, this update provides an opportunity to improve diagnostic accuracy, facilitate prompt intervention, reduce unnecessary tests, and improve hearing and rehabilitative outcomes for patients.”

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Communicating Better With People Who Have Hearing Loss

You might believe that hearing aids are enough for communicating with people with hearing loss. Although hearing aids are beneficial in many circumstances, sometimes they are not enough. When talking, remember that a conversation involves two people: a speaker who sends the message, and a listener who receives the message. So, as a member of this communication pair, it is essential to communicate your message clearly to those with hearing loss. Here are a few approaches to help you do it better.

Get Their Attention

Try to gain a listener’s attention before you begin speaking. You might say the person’s name, or gently touch their arm or shoulder to gain their attention. These actions will allow the listener with hearing loss to prepare, so they do not miss the first part of your conversation.

Eye Contact

Please face the person with hearing loss and make eye contact. It is your facial expressions and body language that provide critical information to the message you are delivering. It is easy to see excitement, joy, confusion, and frustration on a person’s face.

Keep Hands Away From Face

When you are speaking, try to keep your hands away from your face. Doing this will allow you to deliver a more explicit speech while allowing your listener to pick up on visual clues by watching your mouth and face. Remember that speechreading depends on a listener being able to see your face, which improves their perception of the message.

Use Natural Speech

Try to keep your speech distinct, but do not exaggerate. There is no need for shouting, as it will only distort the message. Avoid mumbling and speak at a reasonable rate. Use pauses instead of slow speech, which will give the listener time to process your speech. Try to provide clues when you are changing subjects or state that you are changing topics.

Rephrase Instead Of Repeating

If your message is not clear, repeat it one time. If your listener is still having difficulty understanding what you are saying, try to rephrase your message differently. Make use of different words that have the same meaning. You may also ask your listener what part of the message they did not understand and repeat only that phrase or word.

Avoid Background Noise

Please try to reduce environmental noise as much as possible when communicating. Turn off the radio and television and move to a quiet place. When going out to a restaurant, request a table away from the kitchen, server station, or large groups of people.

Lighting

Good lighting on your face is essential for a person who is speechreading. When you are at a social gathering, sit where the light is good, and your face is visible. Poor lighting causes shadows on your face, and intense lighting from behind may cause difficulty from the bright light.

Consider An App For Translation

Several apps are now available that will allow you to speak into a smartphone and have your words appear on the screen for the person with hearing loss to read. Texting is another useful tool for communication.

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Expanding Hearing Aid Access With Hearing Insurance

The loss of hearing is one of the most widespread conditions in America, yet many people who need them do not wear them. A significant reason that people give for this avoidance of hearing aids is the cost. It is true, the cost of hearing aids and maintenance can be substantial, although the improvement to the quality of one’s life is well worth the price. However, there is encouraging news. United Healthcare is now offering hearing aid insurance to expand hearing aid access to those who would not otherwise be able to purchase hearing aids. CareCredit is providing a new system that makes the process easier for the provider and the patient.

Hearing Health Insurance

United Healthcare Hearing will offer hearing health that is affordable for individuals, employer-based sponsor, and Medicare Advantage plan participants. Custom-programmed hearing aids will cost up to 80 percent less than the price of a device sold in the usual manner. Employers will be able to offer hearing health benefit plans that include a wide range of hearing aid options as well as access to a national network of hearing healthcare professionals. Participants with Medicare Advantage plans will be able to choose custom-programmed hearing aids with no out-of-pocket cost.
All of United Healthcare’s 25 million members will have access to hearing healthcare with more than 5,000 hearing healthcare professionals participating in the plan. The plan, which is known as UnitedHealthcare Hearing, is a merger between the largest provider of hearing insurance, EPIC hearing healthcare, and HealthInnovations, which is a direct-to-consumer provider of hearing aids. The company considers this an efficient way to improve the overall wellbeing of its participants.

Financing Options

Making hearing healthcare more accessible is also the goal of CareCredit. The credit provider is trying to help people get hearing aids as well as make the application process less of a hassle. CareCredit, in cooperation with the Blueprint Office Management System, is now providing more extensive assistance to patients applying for unique financing options. The goal is to enable hearing healthcare professionals the ability to save time and increase productivity. This new system allows CareCredit transactions to be written automatically back to the ledger which saves time and minimizes human error. The CareCredit application process is more straightforward as the information automatically transfers to the CareCredit application. The hearing healthcare professionals fill in a few additional fields of data and receive a decision quickly. Because cost keeps patients from getting the hearing aids they need, this arrangement provides easy access to financial assistance.
Increasing the accessibility of hearing health is vital. Many people need hearing aids, but few use them. People often cite cost as a deterrent for using hearing aids, and at an average price of $6,000 a pair, it is a sound reason. However, insurance plans and unique financing options may be changing things. Hopefully, improving accessibility to hearing aids will help all people who need hearing aids. This welcome news may help improve the hearing health and quality of life of countless individuals.

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Behavior Management In Children With Hearing Loss

Children Behavioral Disorders

Hearing loss is a surprisingly prevalent issue among children, but did you know that it’s also been linked to behavioral disorders? According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss affects about 32 million young people around the world, about 60% of whom have preventable hearing loss.
For those children who have hearing loss, especially those for whom hearing loss goes untreated, new research is showing us that they may also be at risk for developing a number of different behavioral disorders. Even for children whose hearing loss is treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants, behavioral disorders remain a significant barrier to their social and educational development.
The Research
According to researchers at the University of Kentucky, there is a substantial link between childhood hearing loss and behavioral disorders. The researchers arrived at this conclusion by reviewing 36 different studies that looked at this interesting connection between childhood hearing loss and behavioral disorders.
These studies used a wide variety of different tools to asses behavioral issues and included children of a multitude of different age groups and backgrounds, as well as different types and levels of hearing loss. The being said, most of the studies assessed a child’s behavior using metrics known as the Child Behavior Checklist, the Vineland Behavior Adaptive Scale, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.
Moreover, a substantial proportion of the studies (approximately one-third) looked at children with permanent hearing loss that was actively being treated by hearing aids or cochlear implants. This means that the studies also accounted for children whose hearing loss was being managed and not just those with untreated hearing loss. Thus, the findings of this research are applicable for all young people with hearing loss, regardless of whether or not it’s actually being treated.
Ultimately, the research review found that there was evidence that strongly suggests there is a link between hearing loss in children and behavioral disorders. First and foremost, the research shows that there is evidence that children with hearing loss are internalizing their behavioral disorders in a number of ways, including emotional and social withdrawal, symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, and symptoms of anxiety.
Moreover, the researchers found that even for children with treated hearing loss, these internalized behaviors did not go away. However, the researchers did note that children with treated hearing loss exhibited fewer behaviors typical of externalized behavioral disorders, including destructive, defiant, and impulsive actions.
In addition to this correlation between hearing loss in children and behavioral disorders, the research also found that young people with hearing loss are less likely to obtain mental health services that could help them overcome their behavioral issues. Although it is unclear whether or not this lack of mental health services for children with hearing loss is due to financial, time, or other constraints, the researchers argue that these services are critical for helping children with hearing a loss to work through their behavioral issues.
Moving Forward
While the research doesn’t suggest that every child with hearing loss will have a behavioral disorder, it does identify a link between the two conditions. Thus, moving forward, more research on how to help these young people, not only with their hearing loss but with their behavioral issues, is of the utmost importance. The research shows that understanding the impact of hearing loss on behavioral health in children is an important focal point in which families, educators, and medical professionals can concentrate on to best serve the needs of these young people.

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The Changing Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Chronic Illness

hearing loss and chronic illness

The way hearing health care providers are caring for their patients is taking a new shape thanks to the increasing amount of information coming to surface thanks to important scientific research highlighting comorbidities between chronic medical illness and hearing decline.
Past Awareness
In the past few decades, new information about the link between chronic illness and hearing loss has been trickling into the medical community. However, awareness of the issue and knowledge of the exact conditions that share a link to hearing loss has been slow to evolve.
According to a recent article in The Hearing Journal, Kathryn Dowd, Aud, first became aware of the link between comorbidities of chronic disease and hearing loss in 1984 when she found information from the Maryland Department of Aging recommending that anyone with diabetes, cardiovascular, chronic kidney, Alport syndrome, or Crohn’s syndrome have their hearing checked.
What Dowd soon realized was that this information was not widely known among the medical or hearing health community. She began an effort called the Audiology Project to help get the CDC and other organizations the right information to disperse to patients who need it so their hearing needs can be properly attended.
Research At Work
In the meantime, the evidence base for the link between chronic conditions and hearing loss has been growing steadily. In 2008, researchers established a higher rate of hearing loss among those suffering from diabetes than those who do not. In 2011, a research study highlighted the link between early-stage dementia and hearing loss.
Research continues to expand the list of chronic illnesses that have a definitive link to hearing loss. They’re also working to understand whether the relationship between the two is causal or correlative. As information expands, so is awareness among the medical and hearing healthcare community, which will continue to shape future provider care.
The Future Of Provider Care
Links between chronic disease and hearing loss, particularly in older populations will play an integral part in determining the right kind of provider care. Primary care physicians who are properly educated will increase referrals to Audiologists and other hearing health professionals.
In turn, these professionals will begin providing feedback to the referring physician or make their own referrals to medical professionals if they suspect possible links between a patient’s hearing loss and other conditions.
The Future Of Patient Care
The growing awareness of these links means more comprehensive care and communication between hearing healthcare and other medical care providers. Diagnosis of hearing conditions that may have otherwise be missed may now be more probable thanks to the awareness both providers are beginning to gain with the Audiology Project and similar awareness movements.
Awareness may reduce the chances of isolation patients suffer from living with undiagnosed hearing loss. It may also lead to improved means of communication between patient and medical healthcare provider thanks to proper hearing healthcare.
Audiologists will also be better suited to tailor hearing health solutions for their patients based on increased awareness of patients limitations due to chronic illness. Patients with early onset dementia may benefit from early intervention so hearing aids become a part of their established routine. Whereas those with vision problems due to chronic disease may be well suited for a hearing aid with bright colors so that it can easily be found and worn.

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What is Normal Hearing?

What is normal hearing

Have you ever wondered about hearing loss and what is considered “normal” hearing? You’re not alone. With so many people now living with a diagnosis of hearing, it’s no surprise that many wonder just what exactly “normal” is. Scientists determined the standard many years ago and with the help of many, many people.
How hearing works
Before we discuss how science determined normal levels of hearing, it’s important to understand just how your hearing works. It all starts with a sound that is captured by your outer ear. These sounds (sound waves) are funneled into your ear canal. From there, sound waves hit the eardrum. As they vibrate the eardrum, which is the beginning of the middle ear, the eardrum moves three small bones called ossicles to varying degrees depending on the pitch of the sound. It doesn’t end there, though.
As the ossicles move, signals are sent to the inner ear and the cochlea. The fluid within the cochlea begins to move, moving the hair-like cells within it. This minute movement is then translated to the brain as sound by way of the auditory nerve. In many cases, it is damage to the small hair-like structures of the inner ear, due to aging or exposure to loud noise, that result in hearing loss.
Hearing and hearing loss
As long as there have been humans there has been hearing loss. There is evidence of hearing loss in 10,000 year old skeletal remains from the Middle East, writings on the subject from Plato and Aristotle and the first electronic hearing aids were developed in 1940. It’s no wonder that science wanted to find common ground and global standards for hearing and hearing loss.
The core of that standard is “audiometric zero.” Audiometric zero is the frequency range detectable by someone with normal hearing. Generally, that range is from 0 dBHL (Decibel Hearing Level) to approximately 20 dBHL. It took a unique approach to determine this range, though. Researchers tested the hearing of thousands of attendees at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Once they were done, they determined an average for the lowest level those people could hear at certain frequencies. The resulting information became audiometric zero.
What does that mean?
Those with hearing loss are those who only hear louder sounds, those over 20 dBHL. They are unable to hear within the audiometric zero range.
Individuals can have varying degrees of hearing loss as determined by a hearing evaluation:

  • Hearing loss of 20 to 40 decibels = mild hearing loss
  • Hearing loss of 41 to 60 decibels = moderate hearing loss
  • Hearing loss of 61 to 80 decibels = severe hearing loss
  • Hearing loss of more than 81 decibels = profound hearing loss

Any loss over 40 decibels is considered a hearing impairment.
To give you a better idea of what these decibel levels mean, here are some common sounds and where they measure in decibels:
Quiet countryside: 20 dB
Conversation: 60 dB
Traffic: 80 dB
Jet engine: 140 dB
Sustained exposure to noises over 90 dB can lead to hearing loss.
Our hearing is delicate and easily damaged. It is important to protect it with hearing protection and regular hearing evaluations. These screenings can help determine if you have a hearing loss and how best to manage it to protect further loss.

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Is Hearing On All Of The Time? Science Seems To Think So

can we hear while we sleep

The human brain functions much like a switchboard that is teeming with all types of electrical activity. When the brain receives a stimulus from a sound or a smell, the brain must decide if the stimulus is something about which a person should be made aware. The sensation remains in our memory even if the person does not wake up. It is a common belief that our ears are on all the time. If we are asleep and dreaming, we are still processing environmental sounds.

No Rest For The Brain

When we sleep, the brain does not rest; it is very active during sleep. There are changes in the electrical activity of the brain during sleep due to the trillions of nerve cells rewiring themselves. It is this rewiring that allows us to process and retain new information. Sleep is essential for maintaining the pathway in your brain that helps you to learn and create new memories. The brain also removes toxins in your brain that build up during the time you are awake. This activity of the brain also makes hearing while you sleep possible. It is this ability to hear while asleep that is the focus of a new research study involving preschool children.

A Study

A group of researchers from Vanderbilt University is studying preschool children to answer the question of what the children hear during sleep. The purpose of this EEG study is to show traces of sounds heard during the children’s nap time. This project is among the first of its kind to determine how sleep environments affect pre-school children.
The team uses a portable EEG machine to test individual children in silent, isolated rooms during the children’s nap time at the university preschool. When the children are sleeping, the investigators play three nonsense words to each child for a short period.
All the children demonstrated a recognition of the test sounds when lined up with other nonsense words that the children did not hear during the study. The indication is that the children process sensory information even when they are asleep. The team was able to verify that the children were asleep before the administration of the sounds. The research team considers that this study may serve as a critical first step in understanding the process in children who use hearing technology because of hearing loss but who do not use the devices while sleeping.

Never Stop Working

The brain is indeed a workhorse that never stops working. Even during sleep, the neural activity within the brain is still active. When we sleep, it is also a time for the brain to rewire the delicate nerve cells that reside within the brain and to maintain the pathway for learning and creating new memories. Thanks to new research, we are closer to understanding our ability to hear during sleep. Hopefully, this information will help to shed more light on the mysteries surrounding the brain and its impact on our hearing ability.

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Hearing Loss And Cognition In Young Adults

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Impairment in young people

Preserving your hearing health has always been important. The importance of protecting your hearing has been a drum that professionals and educators constantly beat for you at a very early age. Young people have always been an at-risk population due to feelings of invincibility or not wanting to think about those kinds of things until we are older. But, now new light is being shed on the link between diminished hearing and diminished cognitive ability, underscoring the importance of taking good care of your hearing at any age.
Correlations Found In Recent Studies
Recent studies have shown a consistent correlation between individuals who have suffered hearing loss, and affected cognitive processing, particularly in the frontal lobes. This correlation was not only found in older populations, an observation that has long been established. It has also appeared consistently in studies involving younger people. While educators have always emphasized to young people the need to take their hearing health seriously, the increased use of ear pods at unsafe volume levels and other exposure to occupational noise has increased the cause for concern in recent years.
A recent study published in eNeuro showed brain activity in younger adults ages 18 to 34 with mild hearing loss that indicated impacted cognitive ability. Up until this point, studies focused on the prevalence of impaired cognition in patients with cochlear implants, or older individuals living with reduced hearing. This is one of the first studies that demonstrate similar correlations in younger patients with hearing loss. While one study is not enough, it does give precedence for numerous other studies in the future that may build on that foundation.
Overburdening The Brain
It also gives some support to the theory that dementia in older patients is a result of the brain devoting more processing power to understanding what is said, thereby fatiguing the brain. While this is not proven, it is one theory that differs from the thought that older adults with hearing loss experience dementia because of the resulting isolation that’s experienced as a result of slowly losing your hearing.
In the meantime, a new call for hearing awareness is underway, focusing on communicating the importance of protecting your ears while still in your youth, whether that be by listening to music at lower levels, paying attention to the noise levels in the room, or wearing earplugs at loud events or locations.
More Research Needed
With more research, an increased effort can be placed on exploring the link between reduced hearing and cognition, and ways to mitigate that problem could be investigated. This would allow professionals to treat individuals living with hearing loss in a way that addresses the isolation they may feel from having reduced hearing to decrease risk of dementia, and medically treat any physiological ties between hearing loss and dementia.
In the meantime, whatever age you are, use headphones at safe volume levels, monitor your environment for atmospheric noise, and use earplugs whenever necessary. If you have any questions about hearing loss and cognition, please reach out to one of our hearing professionals today.

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Couples With Hearing Loss

Couple with sensory loss

Valentine’s Day is an annual chance to express your love and thankfulness for the fantastic people in your life, particularly your significant other. For many of us, this involves giving flowers or chocolates, preparing breakfast in bed, or going out for dinner and drinks with that special someone. But, for those of us who live with hearing loss, it can be tricky to fully experience such a special day in a world created by and for hearing people.
While many people with hearing loss find that it can be difficult to fully enjoy a holiday, a new study has investigated the value and benefits of support that a significant other can provide for a partner with hearing loss, thus sparking a conversation about how we can create the best possible experience for our loved ones during the holidays and throughout the year.
The Study
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Montreal, investigated the coping and support mechanisms at play in relationships where one or both partners experience some form of sensory loss, both hearing and visual. Before conducting this study, the researchers noticed that most information about support for people with sensory loss comes from researchers and specialists, without taking into account the voices of people who actually experience hearing loss. In an effort to change this practice, the researchers focused their study on actual couples living with acquired sensory loss.
The data in this study were drawn from two sources: in-person interviews with 12 couples in Denmark with acquired deafblindness and an online survey of 72 adults with sensory loss and 39 of their spouses. The couples in both studies were asked, “What advice would you give to other couples who are living with sensory loss?” and their advice is both unique and insightful.
Advice For Couples With Hearing Loss
While no two couples with sensory loss will have the same experiences, couples with newly developed hearing loss may find it difficult to navigate their new world or to support each other in the initial stages of their new condition. The advice from people who have experienced these difficulties firsthand can be incredibly helpful as couples re-establish norms and support mechanisms in the face of new adversity. Here’s what participants in the study recommend:

  • Seek out peer support. While many healthcare professionals may suggest that people with new sensory loss diagnoses seek out counseling and therapy services, many people with hearing loss find that peer support and patient-led organizations are particularly helpful in learning to live one’s best life even with sensory loss.
  • Be open and honest with your partner. If you have a new hearing loss diagnosis, you may naturally turn to your partner for support. But, as this is a new experience for both of you, it’s important to be honest about what you need to feel supported. Moreover, patience and understanding are key to accepting the new sensory loss while also respecting each person’s independence and choices.
  • Discuss what your partner can do to support you in public situations. For many people with newly diagnosed, sensory loss having to rely on others to interact in public can be a difficult new process to get used to. To best support a partner without diminishing their independence, it’s important to discuss how you can help them get the most out of a public conversation before they happen.
  • Focus on what someone can do, not what they can’t. In the deaf community, there’s a common saying that the only thing a deaf person can’t do is hear. This is an incredibly important thing to remember when faced with a new sensory loss diagnosis. While it’s easy to concentrate on the things that someone can no longer do or experience, focusing more on what someone can do can be empowering and affirming.

Although living with sensory loss can be challenging, a supportive, open, and understanding partner can help bring a positive attitude to the mix. Even those of us without sensory loss have a lot to learn from the support mechanisms in place within couples with sensory loss.