Ask the Chicken: I keep arguing with my husband over my hearing loss. Can you help?

Posted on October 21, 2016

In an uncertain world, there’s one person you can turn to for dependable advice: the limping chicken, offering sensible advice for all kinds of common deaf-related problems from its coop. 

A reader writes:

Hard of hearing here who wears two hearing aids. Of a weekend I try and have a rest from wearing them as they become really annoying. My husband is normally a very quietly spoken man so when I’m not wearing my aids I find it difficult to always hear what he’s saying so he then repeats it but when he does he talks really slowly one word at a time with gaps in between which to me is very upsetting when I ask him to talk to me in a normal way he becomes very angry saying you don’t hear me. Most of our arguments are now over my hearing loss. I’m becoming so upset and don’t know what to do I’m already embarrassed because of the loss of hearing without being shown up as he does this in company as well even when I’m wearing my aids. Does anyone else have his problem if so how did you overcome it?

Thank you for your comment, which was originally posted on our site below another article, and for agreeing to have it become an ‘Ask the Chicken’ piece.

This Chicken sends out all good vibes and a big HUG from its coop.

It’s clear that when one person loses some of their hearing in a relationship, that how two partners communicate has to adjust. This is the responsibility of both of you.

This can be a difficult process, and making a success of it means working together.

Getting a break from hearing aids can be important. The sound they give us doesn’t compare favourably to ‘natural’ hearing and we can find our ears ‘working’ all the time. So a break once in a while is important. One thing you can do is (if you’re not already doing this) make it very clear to your husband that you’re not wearing them, and why, and how long this will last. That way, at the very least, he has no excuses!

Dealing with your immediate problem first, what seems to be happening is that your husband speaks to you, then you miss what he said, then he speaks really slowly, which may feel patronising and also, is not generally thought of by deaf people as making lipreading any easier.

There is some good news here though. Your husband is trying to help you understand him. That shows he is thinking of your needs, to some degree, even if he’s not quite getting it right.

From his perspective, he may be feeling angry because he’s trying to make an adjustment for your hearing loss, but you’re asking him to do what, to him, didn’t work in the first place (speaking normally).

A small adjustment might help you to solve this problem, and that’s asking him to only start speaking to you once you are looking at him.

If he can call you, or tap you on the shoulder, then wait for you to be facing him before he speaks, then that will mean you’ll be primed to lipread and understand what he says, without him needing to speak slowly or exaggerate his lip patterns.

The message for him is simple – you can’t understand him if you’re not facing him, especially when you don’t wear hearing aids. That’s what he needs to understand. Although this is simple, it can take time for people to remember!

It’s worth telling him, tactfully, that the way he usually speaks is what you’re used to lipreading, and exaggerating or speaking slowly doesn’t make things easier.

Moving on to the embarrassment you feel, and the fact that you’re being shown up around other people. This makes me wonder whether it would be worth your husband attending a Deaf Awareness course, or whether it would help you to attend lipreading classes, both of which can offer advice and strategies which can help you as you move forward.

What I would say is that when you’re around other people, rather than embarrassing you (or ‘showing you up’), your husband can do lots of small things to help you understand everyone. Such as occasionally giving you the context or subject of discussion, which helps you follow what is happening, especially if you’re just joining a conversation. Also, if you’re struggling to understand someone, he can help you out by rewording what they’ve said, and repeating it for you.

The hardest time for a Deaf person to follow communication is often in groups, so in these situations you need your husband to be on your side.

I hope this response has been helpful. Good luck!

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