Seeing my wife cope with hearing loss has been challenging to say the least and I haven’t always made things easier. It stinks not being able to help your best friend. But through it all, she and I have grown closer than ever before.
Perspective matters for both of us. Her hearing loss often gives me a second chance to stop and think before saying something stupid a second time and I’m grateful for that. We’ve had to learn how to communicate in new ways, and patience has become a virtue we cherish. In this blog post, I want to share our story with you, in the hopes that it will help others who might be going through a similar experience.
What my Wife’s Hearing Loss Means for our Family
Dawn has been diagnosed with what is called sensorineural hearing loss due to damage of the hair cells in the inner ear. Many people experience age-related hearing loss but Dawn’s hearing impairment began at an early age. She blames it on listening to music too loud without hearing protection.
When her hearing loss first started, it wasn’t super noticeable and she didn’t talk much about it. As time went on and her hearing loss continued to get worse, it became more obvious that it wasn’t going to go away or magically get better. We needed to learn how to support her, love her, and learn to communicate in a way that didn’t add to any frustration.
I’ve slowly become more patient with her hearing loss. I don’t ask “Do you have your hearing aids in?” or tell her to “just forget it” (as often) after I’ve repeated something several times. 4 kids will teach you some patience. I think dealing with our son’s disability (Autism) has also helped me realize how challenging having a disability is.
Both Dawn’s parents, grandparents, and siblings have experienced some level of hearing loss. The risk factors for our kids developing some type of hearing loss are pretty high even though they’ve all passed a hearing test. Listening tests are failed daily 😀. We decided we better learn how to communicate effectively as a family. One for mom and two to prepare and educate the children about protecting their own hearing.
How We’ve Learned to Communicate
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced since her hearing loss is communication. I’ve learned to talk louder and to face her, and I don’t even think about trying to have a conversation from another room. Sometimes we still have trouble understanding each other, but it’s gotten better over time.
I have learned when Dawn needs me to speak up for her in public–like the drive-through 😆! Background noise or loud noise, in general, are difficult settings for someone with sensorineural hearing loss. Sometimes when we are in public she is reluctant to ask questions when she’s having trouble understanding someone. It was hard at first but I keep reminding her that her hearing impairment is not a burden to others.
Patience Has Become a Virtue
She tells me hearing loss and a son who struggles with eye contact, speaking clearly, and understanding social interactions have really helped her discover the value of patience. I myself have learned to be more patient with my son and Dawn because they are both dealing with challenges that make communication difficult at times. I’m not perfect though–sometimes all this stress gets the best of me, but being aware of how much we rely on God’s grace has helped me through the tough times.
The takeaway from all of this is that my family and I have had to learn how to cope with hearing loss in different ways, but we’ve come out stronger on the other side. We’ve all had to become a little more understanding and compassionate, and I think that’s made our family stronger than ever before. We’re learning to cope with her hearing loss together, and we’re doing it with patience and love.
What Hearing Loss Means to our Family
Dealing with her hearing loss has been difficult, especially when it’s something I can’t fix. It has taught me a lot about myself and my relationship with God. It’s helped me to minister to Dawn, which is usually the other way around. Her confidence and identity are found in Christ, and her hearing loss doesn’t stop that. I love that her hearing loss has given her the desire to reach out and comfort others dealing with the same disability.
Our personal journey of coming to grips with disabilities has given us the opportunity to experience God’s grace in our lives. Asking Jonah to look us in the eye and maintain eye contact is like someone telling Dawn she needed to be a better listener.
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, Dawn’s hearing loss and Jonah’s Autism have taught me that no matter what we’re going through, God is using it for our good. My children are seeing me lean into my relationship with God during difficult times and they are learning to do the same.
We are still learning on this journey of life, but I know that no matter what happens, God is with us every step of the way.
What about you? How are you dealing with your own disability or someone else’s? Have you experienced God’s grace in a way that’s surprised or blessed you?