Finding happiness after hearing loss

Have you found joy and happiness elusive after your hearing loss? Does having a hearing loss influence how much happiness or joy you allow yourself to experience? Can you be happy after losing your hearing? 

Ever thought of it that way?

I didn’t until recently when I discussed my journey from a successful music career, to sudden onset bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss in my late 20’s, and back to music again. I said that after my hearing loss I had lived a life with a serious “joy deficit.”

The reasons may seem obvious, as among other things a loss of my career and music, but that quote made me wonder how I could say that. There have been so many years after hearing loss to adjust and so many moments, people, places and experiences that must have been happy and joy producing. Weren’t they?

How Senses Play a Role in Experiencing Joy

Shortly after, I  read a book about joy and how important senses are in experiencing it. I began to understand better what may have created that “joy deficit” in my life. Sensory challenges – not only my loss of hearing music, but also the partial loss of sight –  had limited my experience of happiness and joy.

But was music the only thing that brought me joy all these years?

All the challenges I had because of my hearing loss seemed to cancel out all the joy in my life. Simple conversations and activities seemed to illuminate other deficits and inevitably influence the isolation, loneliness, and anxiety I can feel.

Social Consequences of Hearing Loss 

Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older adults. A study done by the National Council on Aging reports that people with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids. The study also found that people who don’t use hearing aids are considerably less likely to participate in social activities.

OK, but what about those who have been treated and fitted with hearing aids and cochlear implants? Don’t they experience depression, anxiety and social isolation too? And to what degree?

According to the study:

“Hearing aid users reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life and their sex life. In virtually every dimension measured, the families of hearing aid users also noted the improvements but were even more likely than the users to report improvements.”

What is “Happiness” in your Life?

I had to think back to what had previously brought me joy. Much, but not all, came back to my music – listening to it, playing, composing, recording and most of all performing it. Music was the landscape of my life. Shutting it down was a terrible blow and one from which I did not recover quickly or easily. My current pursuit of these activities should be indication enough of my passion for them and their importance to my life and happiness.

But was the loss of music the only reason I experienced a “joy” deficit?

As I do, you probably know folks with hearing loss who have not recovered well even after they get hearing aids or implants. The pain, fear and embarrassment are just too much for some and can become overwhelming. They were for me for a time as well. Thanks to discoveries about the brain, hearing technology, hearing rehab and vocal work, I have found music again.

But have I found that elusive joy I have been missing?

I’ll put it his way. I have found great satisfaction in working hard to reclaim my musical life with exciting results. My story has given me a pretext to write and speak about hearing loss. But I’ve also learned hard lessons along the way. For too long a time I forgot, or did not appreciate enough, other things that brought me joy and happiness. Because I did not hold onto the memory of those things long enough, I did not fill that reservoir of sensory and emotional experiences. So, I had little to draw upon it when things got tough. Instead, I felt that life meant compensating first and living second.

Learning to Live with Hearing Loss 

Part of learning to live with hearing loss is letting go of things one may have thought was dependent on having perfect hearing.

Having music in my life again is wonderful, but I also have other things in my life that are helping me rediscover my happiness. I have love in my life and a patient partner and soul mate; brothers and cousins; nieces and nephews; friends; my work; years of travel and better fortunes, and the memories of them, and new ones waiting to be created. Joy.

I am enjoying, with even greater intent, those things that better connect me to my body – yoga, meditation, walking, exercising, and more. Joy.

My sweetheart and I swim in Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts (made famous by the writings of Henry David Thoreau). Joy. We love the mountains and the ocean. Joy. I love old New England Inns where recently I had a “joy moment” sitting on the porch of the very Inn I escaped to right after my hearing loss – and being now in a better place. Joy.

“If I were to be asked what brings me the most joy now, it’s not perfect hearing.”

Enjoying sensory experiences are not all dependent on perfect hearing of course, and all of them give us a window into what brings us joy. If I were to be asked what brings me the most joy now, it’s not perfect hearing. It’s family, friends, nature, love, sex, my work, my music and countless other things. It’s the joy that might be present at any moment that I will miss if I do not pay attention. It’s close up face-to-face exchanges, the visuals in life, the outdoors, the body, feeling the flow of life…and sharing that with others.

I lost many things when I lost my hearing. Joy did not have to be one of them. If not hearing, then I can use my other senses to see, smell, taste, touch, remember and experience those moments, people, places and things that bring me joy. It’s up to me to regularly quiet myself long enough to savor the joys in my life.

Choosing Joy 

Was I blaming my hearing loss for that joy deficit? Yes, I think I did in part. My joyless streak caused many difficulties for me – not enough time with family and friends, gaps in my relationships, not reaching out to the hearing loss community  and insisting that my social crowd be limited to those with good hearing. That’s changing and I am better for it.

Joy is a choice.

Dear friends and many guides have helped me understand something else – that joy is a choice. Any choice can become joyful by actions that we take – not just emotions that we feel. If we don’t pay attention in every moment, we will miss the good things. If we allow hearing loss to disconnect us from the other parts of ourselves and life, it will inevitably limit the joy we can experience.

Our emotions are connected to our senses and ultimately to our experience of joy.

Listen to music, sit by a stream, hike in the mountains, walk by the sea, visit a museum, read a good book, be among friends and family and try not to be moved. We fail the soul when we fail to allow our other senses to move us, even when hearing is limited. And we fail the soul when we purposely shut the rest of us down out of fear, anxiety or embarrassment.

It’s not surprising that many of us with hearing loss have found peace in spirituality, meditation, yoga, and in those people, places and things that through interactions and the senses bring us joy. We can mourn our hearing losses, but the resources to help us reconnect to our joy ARE out there. Don’t avoid getting a hearing aid and allowing a joy deficit to fester.

Find your joys – whatever they are – and hold onto them and nurture them selfishly.

How to be Happy after Losing your Hearing 

If you have a hearing loss, try a hearing aid. As the aforementioned study suggests, that alone may bring you happiness.

If wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant continues to distress you, take some time and contemplate the state of your own joy and happiness and ask yourself why they continue to be elusive. If perfect hearing is the only thing that you think will bring you happiness, you may be in trouble.

There are things I cannot do anymore, but most of them have nothing to do with my hearing. As I have grown older, and even less auditorially perfect, the number of things that can bring me joy has grown, but only IF I recognize them, appreciate them and hold onto them.

I don’t mean to be glib. The social isolation, anxiety and depression are real and not easy things to overcome. We try medications, therapy and other things to help. But it comes down to gratitude and those personal habits we practice to identify and express our joy that are at least as important.

Joy and happiness are choices. They demand making changes in perspective and behavior simply because the old ways are not going to work anymore.

“Joy and happiness are choices.”

Don’t miss the joy in each moment because of your hearing loss. When good thing happens, drink them in and build up that reservoir of joy inside you.

10 Misconceptions about Hearing Loss


Hearing loss is sometimes referred to as an “invisible disability,” because it’s not always obvious when people have hearing loss, and it’s not often talked about. Studies show that only 1 in 5 people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one, and on average, people with hearing loss wait almost 10 years before they do something about it. Why?

Sometimes it’s related to cost, but other times it has to do with the stigma that hearing loss carries. People might associate hearing loss with getting old or don’t want to wear hearing aids because there are ugly.

There are a lot of misconceptions that people have about hearing loss. I think it’s important to be open about hearing loss and how it can affect people’s lives, both positively and negatively. Help break down the stigma of hearing loss!

Here are 10 misconceptions about hearing loss that you should know:

1. Deaf people cannot drive

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Deaf people can totally drive! They just need to be more cautious of their surroundings. It’s all about visuals. (Read about my drivers’ training experience, and tips for passing a drivers test.)

2. Sign language is one universal language


Sign Language is as diverse as spoken languages. Each country has one or more sign language, you may be surprised that there are about 130 different ones!

Some people with hearing loss use sign language, and others don’t! Although I wear hearing aids and communicate with speech and lip-reading, I’m also learning British Sign Language.

3. Deaf people are good lip-readers


Lip-reading is difficult, and not always accurate. Depending on how long someone has had hearing aids, or how well they can hear, some people lip read better than others. There are so many different lip-shapes and patterns, most of it is just guesswork. This is why Deaf people appreciate gestures, clues or signs to indicate the subject! It also doesn’t help lip-reading if people have accents, beards or moustaches!

4. Hearing loss only affects the older generation


I don’t know why people think this! Maybe because the only ‘deaf’ person they know of is their grandparents? Well, obviously this is a myth! I’m 19 and I’m profoundly deaf. Some people are born with a hearing loss, others lose it later in life. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages.

5. Deaf people only listen to someone when they feel like it


Due to concentration fatigue, people with hearing loss might not always have the energy to lip-read or focus on their hearing, especially if there’s background noise. If you feel like we’re ignoring you, perhaps we didn’t hear! In this case, get our attention before speaking as we might not have heard you!

Try these 7 things you can do to communicate effectively with someone who is hearing impaired

6. Hearing aids instantly make you hear


Unlike glasses that can instantly correct your sight, people with hearing loss can’t just pop in a hearing aid and instantly hear! Depending on the level of someone’s hearing loss, hearing aids vary on power, and often need some fine tuning by the audiologist or hearing care professional to create the best listening features in each users’s technology. While hearing aids can make a big difference in one’s hearing ability, it’s not the same as someone with “normal” hearing.

Read more: Hearing Aid Fitting Day: Ups, Downs and Why It’s Worth It!

7. Deafness is hereditary


Deafness is not always hereditary. Personally, nobody in my family is deaf. I’ll likely never know the cause of my deafness.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, contracted Meningitis when he was young and lost his hearing as a result.

8. If you talk louder, deaf people can hear 

hands-people-woman-meeting I once heard somebody compare this misconception to the body being like a microphone. Have you ever heard anybody talk into a broken microphone? It would sound quite loud with plenty of distortion. What’s the point? No matter how loud you talk, if a person has severe enough hearing loss they won’t understand you. That’s what hearing aids are for; make sounds like voices sound clearer and limit sounds like background noise. If you talk louder, it just sounds like you’re shouting at us!

9. Hearing loss can be repaired by medicine or surgery

pexels-photo (3) Currently, there is no “cure” for hearing loss, but there are studies and research around this topic. For some people with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant surgery may help them hear better, but when it comes to repairing hearing loss through medication or non-implant surgery, it’s still an open topic. Maybe in the future there will be a new discovery, who knows?

10. Hearing aids are big and unsightly

Misconceptions about Hearing Loss

Hearing aids no longer mean wearing big, bulgy, beige hearing aids! Hearing technology now comes in all shapes, sizes and colors! Some are classed as ‘invisible‘!

I used to have purple Phonak hearing aids, now I have turquoise Phonak Sky Q hearing aids, I think they look awesomeMisconceptions about Hearing Loss


Why I decided to wear my hearing aids


For a long time in my life I had a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids and navigating my hearing journey was a challenge.

Starting from elementary school, I immediately took on the label as the only hard of hearing child at school because my visible hearing aids and I had a sound field system.

At times it was no problem, but of course there were tough times too.

I remember my classmate’s mom spoke to my mom at a neighborhood event and described how her son didn’t like his class because the deaf girl was in it and the speaker was always too loud. Little did his mom know that she was talking to the ‘deaf girl’s’ mom.

Moments like these combined with having trouble hearing in social situations made me feel like my hearing loss was an inconvenience to myself and others, which made me want to be a part of the hearing world.

Looking back in elementary school and middle school I wore my hearing aids because I had to.

Choosing the wrong path for me

When I had more independence in high school and college, I often chose not to wear my hearing aids. I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids. My insecurities had won me over and I just wanted to fit in.

“I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids.”

I knew I could get away with not wearing hearing aids because I am a lip reader.

If I didn’t hear someone from far away or behind me I had accumulated excuses as to why I didn’t hear them.

I was frequently told it seemed like I didn’t have a hearing loss, which just encouraged my thinking that I didn’t need to wear hearing aids.

Whether I would admit to it or not, I did know that I was missing out on a lot without my hearing aids. When I would try to go back to wearing hearing aids, my brain would have to retrain itself, which resulted in more headaches and change.

I was stuck in a vicious circle.

A time came when I finally met deaf and hard of hearing teens for the first time. I was so grateful to be friends with a group of people that I could relate to, but it was only to a certain extent. Due to my hearing loss not being very severe, I couldn’t relate to many of their experiences. Again I couldn’t feel like I could fit in. I caught in the middle between two worlds.

Getting back on track

When I graduated college I finally realized that I don’t need to choose a route, I  just needed to learn how to navigate my middle ground.

I have learned to be grateful that I can relate to both hearing world and the hard of hearing world. It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!

“It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!”

I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to realize they are not alone if they have ever been in a similar position along their hearing journey.

Here are 3 tips for learning how to wear your hearing aids more:

Understand the power of your hearing aids

Know that your hearing aids aren’t going to magically help you hear everything. I know that I get frustrated when I don’t catch a sound while wearing my hearing aids. I catch myself thinking that because I have a mild/moderate hearing loss, my hearing aids should be able to pick up everything I am missing. This isn’t true.

Your hearing aids will help you, but it’s important to continue to advocate for the accommodations you may need or use another method that may help you. Whether it is a hearing accessory, closed captions, hearing rehab or sign language there are plenty of helping tools available.

Seek out support

If you are someone like me, who was the only hard of hearing child at school, receiving support from other hard of hearing people can be very helpful! Connect with local hearing groups, join the HearingLikeMe forum, participate in online chats, such as #hearinglosshour on Twitter. Sharing experiences will help you feel less alone, more confident with your hearing technology and can help inspire you to live confidently with your hearing loss.

Have patience and acceptance

Be patient with yourself as you learn to hear with your hearing aids. It is a process to get used to wearing your hearing aids. As technology improves, hearing aids are becoming easier to take care of and are more adaptable to modern lifestyles. Once I got in the habit of wearing my hearing aids I experienced a boost in confidence, I felt motivated to discover how I could utilize my hearing aid technology in tough listening environments and I experienced less concentration fatigue. This gave me more gratitude for hearing technology and how my hearing aids have helped me.

Read more: Hearing Aid Fitting Day: The Ups, Downs and Why It’s Worth It

Also having patience when learning how to advocate for yourself is important. Even if you feel like your hearing loss isn’t severe enough to receive accommodations, it doesn’t matter! Everyone’s accommodations differ depending on their hearing loss. Take time to explore and see what works best for you.

Read more: Teens with Hearing Loss: How to be an Advocate for your Education

Accept that you are unique in your own way and that you set your own pace for your hearing journey. Practice talking about your hearing loss with others, to prepare for a dialogue that may need to happen with someone who does not understand hearing loss or is only familiar with stigmas. This dialogue can also be useful if someone dismisses your hearing loss by saying that you can hear fine and don’t need extra hearing help. Education is key to breaking down barriers and can change a person’s outlook on how they view hearing loss.

Living with a hearing loss is a journey just as life is. There will be ups and downs and plenty of learning opportunities. Taking the time to find what accommodations and modes of communication work best for you is worth it in the end!

Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss affects about 15 percent of Americans.

Some people may get noise-induced hearing loss from one very loud noise, such as an explosion, and others from prolonged exposure to loud noise over time. There are two factors that affect the likelihood of noise causing damage to hearing – the power of the sound, and the length of exposure to it. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for damage to occur.

So, how loud is too loud and, how long is too long? 

How loud is too loud?

Any sound above 85dB can cause hearing loss after approximately eight hours of continuous exposure. However, if the noise level is 100dB, your hearing could be damaged in as little as 15 minutes.

Who is at risk from noise-induced hearing loss?

Unsurprisingly, airport ground staff who direct the take-off and landing of jets are possibly subjected to the most noise in terms of both power and length of exposure. Formula One Drivers and crew are also exposed to high noise levels for prolonged periods of time. Construction workers too, may face regular exposure to very loud sounds. (A hammer drill can register up to 120dB.) In each of these industries, workers should be given ear protectors whilst at work.

In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set the following limits in order to protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss:

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive requires employers to provide hearing protection is the daily of weekly average of noise exposure exceeds 85 dB. Employers must assess workers’ health risk and provide information and training at 80 dB. Workers must not be exposed to more than 87 dBof noise – taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

MP3 users

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Others who are at risk but who may not realize it are those who regularly listen to music via headphones. In order to be heard above the noise of the subway, or traffic, the volume can sometimes be turned up as high as 100dB, which is considered to be a dangerously high level.


Violist sues Royal Opera House for hearing damage

Many famous musicians have spoken about how their continued exposure to sounds around 110dB has affected their hearing. And it’s not just rock stars who are at risk – classical musicians are also regularly exposed to sounds of around 95dB.

People who work in live music venues and nightclubs may also be frequently subjected to noise as loud as 115dB or 155dB. Again, their employer should provide them with ear protectors.

Recreational activities

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Other recreational activities that can put you at risk for NIHL include target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, playing in a band, and attending loud concerts, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Harmful noises at home may come from sources including lawnmowers, leaf blowers and woodworking tools.

How to protect your hearing

If you know you are going to be exposed to loud sounds for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to get some form of ear protection such as ear defenders or ear plugs.

About 1.1 billion people around the world are affected by hearing loss, including more young people than ever. If we want to enjoy the sounds of life it’s time we be more active to protect our ears.

Make these small changes to save your hearing.

14 invaluable pieces of advice from moms of children with hearing loss



Parenting a child with a hearing loss can be very similar, but also very different to parenting a hearing child.  There can be challenges –  big and small – and I am starting to realise a lot of these challenges can be met with frustration, for both myself and for Harry.

When I first found out that Harry had hearing loss, I loved reading advice from other mothers. So, in celebration of Mother’s Day, I asked mothers of children with a hearing loss for their best piece of parenting advice.

Here’s what they have to say: 

“The first thing to remember is that your child is a child before they are a deaf child.” Judi, mum of Alex (7)

“The difference is mainly that there is more emphasis on the visual side of things.  Otherwise bringing up a deaf child isn’t much different.”- Sarah, mum of Alby (11)

“Repitition, repetition, repetition!  The more you repeat words and language the more your child will pick it up.” – Lucy, mum of Zach (2)

“Don’t put too much pressure on language and let them guide you with what they are most interested in.  Our son is car crazy so he was quicker to learn the names of car parts and tool than anything else!” – Ellen, mum of Ben (3)

“Learning to swim is crucial for a deaf child.  If they get into trouble in the water they might not be able to hear people or sounds around them.” – Ashleigh, mum of Lilly (7)

“Sometimes we have to spend more time with our child when in social situations as it can be overwhelming.  I often have to encourage her to join in by getting down at her level and joining in myself!” – Mandy, mum of Isabel (2)

“There are so many books around that are so visually stimulating they will help immensely with language and sign skills.  A lot of children’s books are repetitive and involve actions that your little one will pick up really quickly.” – Sarah, mum of Teddy (2)

“A lot of emotions can come with being a deaf child.  Try to be understanding and sympathetic without letting them get away with murder!” – Laura, mum of Henry (15)

“Learning some basic sign language really helped us to relieve some communication frustrations with our toddler.” – Monika, mum of Loren (1)

“We put sticky labels on various objects around the house so that our daughter can see the word written as well as the actual object, to give her a helping hand with what sign or word it is associated with.” – Natalie, mum of Robyn (8)

“Try to encourage your little one to say or sign what they want rather than just pointing, to encourage them to communicate.” – Laura, mum of Harry (2)

“I have made a scrapbook for our 2 year old daughter with pictures of all our family and friends to show her who they all are to her and their names.  I will then show her using the book who we will be seeing that day so she knows exactly what we will be doing.” – Frances, mum of Elsa (2)

“Try to be very patient and do not get frustrated when you need to repeat something to your child.  They may need more time to process what you’re saying than a hearing child” – Orla, mum of Ellis (5)

“Bear in mind that hearing can be very tiring for a child with a hearing loss.  Our little boy is so tired after a day at school and we trying to get him tucked up in bed early to get some well needed rest!” – Rebecca, mum of Alex (7)