Hearing Loss and the Five Stages of Grief

Feb 21, 2022

Grief is a deep emotion. You may associate grief with serious losses like the death of a loved one or with major life changes like a divorce. However, grief can come into play when you experience loss of any kind, including hearing loss. Understanding the grieving process may help improve self-awareness and can allow you to better comprehend your emotions and reactions.
You may be familiar with the five stages of grief. They were originally outlined in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying in 1969. As mentioned previously, however, the stages of grief can be applied to how we deal with any kind of loss. You may experience all five stages, or you may skip one or two. It is also normal to experience the stages of grief in a different order than what is listed here.
Stage 1 of Grief: Denial
If you have witnessed a loved one experience hearing loss, you have probably noticed the stage of denial. They may not acknowledge that they cannot hear as they once did. Perhaps they truly don’t notice that they no longer hear the birds outside or that they need to turn the volume on the TV higher than before. They may think everyone around them is mumbling, rather than acknowledging that they are experiencing hearing loss. This can be especially true for gradual hearing loss, such as age-related hearing loss.
If you are the one experiencing hearing loss, it is normal to make excuses during the denial stage. You may think, “My hearing isn’t that bad,” “I don’t need to see another doctor,” or “I’ve had a cold—my ears are simply stuffy.” For many, denial is the first stage of grief.
Stage 2 of Grief: Anger
If you can no longer deny that your hearing is declining, you may move into the second stage of grief: anger. You may feel angry at friends or family members who constantly ask you to turn down the volume on the TV or encourage you to schedule an appointment with an audiologist. You may feel upset that you have to add another doctor to your list of healthcare providers or that you need to spend money on tests and devices.
In addition, your family members may experience anger as well. They may not understand why you seem so reluctant to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, or they may feel you are ignoring them on purpose when, in reality, you cannot hear them well.
It is important to work through your emotions, including anger. Consider journaling, talking to a trusted friend or counselor about your feelings, or exercising to relieve stress.
Stage 3 of Grief: Bargaining
Once the anger has passed, you may enter the bargaining stage. In this stage, you try to create bargains to return your hearing to normal. Perhaps you promise yourself that you will always wear hearing protection when using power tools or lawn equipment. Maybe you commit to turning down the volume on your radio or TV.
The difficulty is that in most types of hearing loss, you cannot improve your hearing with these steps once hearing loss has occurred. However, there is good news: hearing aids can help you hear better.
Stage 4 of Grief: Depression
You will likely feel depressed or sad at some point about your hearing loss. This is very common, especially among older adults. You have lost something valuable: your hearing. It is natural to feel sadness over this loss.
In addition, untreated hearing loss can lead to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. This is why it’s important to 1) get your hearing loss treated, and 2) maintain contact with your friends and family as you age.
Stage 5 of Grief: Acceptance
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. In this stage, you accept that you can no longer hear as well as you once did and you acknowledge your physical limitations. Of course, you can always explore treatment options with your hearing professional. Many people with hearing loss see great benefits from using hearing aids. If your hearing loss is severe or profound, you may also be a candidate for cochlear implants.
Studies have shown that using hearing aids leads to an improvement in quality of life. Hearing aid wearers report higher levels of happiness and say that using hearing aids has improved their relationships with family and friends and given them a greater sense of independence. Furthermore, using hearing aids can reduce your risk of depression, social isolation, and falls.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to share it with your family as well; they will likely experience some of the stages of grief along with you throughout your hearing journey. To learn more about the stages of grief as they apply to hearing loss, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our hearing professional, we welcome you to contact our office today.