Dear Abby, Please Think Again!

Dear Abby, your response to “Trapped in a Situation” about her hearing-impaired husband “Norm” almost made me weep. “Wife of deaf husband seeks to cope in new place.” I wonder what deaf husband thinks of all this.

Yes, of course Norm should inform the retirement community director about his hearing loss. But why did you stop there?

Norm and Trapped are moving to a retirement community. That means that most of the residents will be 70-plus, maybe a lot older. Two-thirds of 75 year olds have hearing loss, and the number goes up with every year. Norm will have lots of company.

Norm and Trapped may not realize how many other residents have hearing loss because even the aged are embarrassed by age. The stigma of age as it relates to hearing aids remains powerful right up till the last for many people. If Norm is open and honest about his hearing loss, I think he’ll find that others are too.

Norm has a cochlear implant. They are very visible. No one is going to mistake him for a 45 year old with perfect hearing. Because his hearing loss is visible, he’s in a perfect position to educate others – and help himself as well. If he’s open about his hearing loss, others will be too.

Trapped says they use assistive devices at home. These can be used in the dining room room, and so can other technology and techniques for better hearing.

The worst thing Norm can do is stay in his room for dinner. Hearing loss is hard, yes, but it’s much harder for those who withdraw and isolate themselves. The consequences are well documented and include depression and cognitive impairment. Norm needs to get out there and be active.

I can’t help wondering if Trapped isn’t the one bothered by this, rather than Norm. I was struck by her choice of pseudonyms. Norm? As in normal? Wishful thinking.

Healthy aging is what we all aim for. Retirement communities are set up to encourage as much activity and participation as possible. And there’s a good reason for that. The alternative is depressed, demented old people spending the day in their rooms. Surely Trapped doesn’t want this for her Norm.

4 thoughts on “Dear Abby, Please Think Again!

  1. I am no more “ashamed” of my hearing aids than I am of my SEEING aids! I’ve been wearing seeing aids since I was a teen! I’ve seen a lot of real fancy seeing aids (glasses, if you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about), so what’s the difference? People of all ages, from babies to old people, wear both.

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    • Thanks for writing. I couldn’t agree more. Hearing aids should be as common and unremarkable as glasses — or even more common, since hearing problems far outnumber vision problems. The more we all speak out about our hearing loss the sooner that will happen.

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    • I”m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way. I’ve worn “seeing aids” since I was two, and at the time that was VERY odd. My mom said I was usually just very glad to be able to see. Well, with hearing aids at only 33 (have worn them since then), I was just very glad to be able to hear!!

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