Skip to content

Hearing Loss and Interdependence


I’m always reading and have at least two books going at the same time. Right now, one of those books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I’ve read it once already but started again last week because I could always use a little more ‘effective’ in my life. While reading it this time around, my mind applied his talk of interdependence to hearing loss.

Wikipedia defines interdependence as, “a relationship in which each member is mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependence relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. co-op). Some people advocate freedom or independence as the ultimate good; others do the same with devotion to one’s family, community or society. Interdependence can be a common ground between these aspirations.”

When I first lost my hearing, my ego went to work trying to maintain independence by faking my way through conversations or bluffing so I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else to get through my day. Pretending to be hearing equaled being normal which equaled being independent. The idea was to be liberated, self-contained, self-reliant and self-ruling. I operated in this mode far too long missing some great connections, many conversations and agreeing to things I never would have if I heard it right. Other synonyms to independence are loner, nonconformist and contrarian. So what did I achieve through this method? Being independently lost.

Then I swung the other way. My then husband kicked me out of the closet telling me right up front I was hard of hearing. It wasn’t the end of the world and it felt better being honest. He helped me to hear making life a little easier by making difficult phone calls, translating the people I couldn’t understand. He made sure people looked at me when talking, he ordered for me in restaurants and encouraged me to accept my handicap. About this time, I also started looking to my kids, 10 years old and younger, to help me out in public. I didn’t depend on them solely but I used their ears as well.

After getting comfy with the routine, the husband and I wound up getting a divorce. It wasn’t a nice divorce and we had words. One of his parting shots at me was, “You’ll never find a job with your hearing loss!” There’s nothing to motivate me like a challenge, though he didn’t mean it that way. Less than a week later, I started working.

This is when I started taking all that I learned and using it. Instead of waiting for the issue to come up, I told people right away I couldn’t hear well, starting at that job interview. Once they hired me, I became braver about it all to get people to work with me, using interdependence even though I didn’t know I was doing it. (Most people are willing to help but every once in a while I run into someone who won’t. I try not to let them dominate my opinion of the majority.)

Captions keep me independent but captions fail sometimes. It’s okay to ask whoever I’m with what was said. Being dependent would be asking them to narrate the whole movie.

If I’m going to a banquet or workshop without the benefit of CART, I go early with my FM system and explain it the presenters who have never turned down using it. Both of us working together create a sort of win-win situation. Being dependent would be insisting my boyfriend narrate the entire evening.

Using the phone is not easy but my bluetooth device which connects my hearing aids to my phone keeps me independent. I still need cooperation from the person on the other end, getting them to slow down and repeat when necessary. Captioned telephone services also help me a great deal but that often requires an operator typing the call for me. I need captions, this gives him/her a job. We are helping each other out.

On the same Wikipedia web page mentioned above, I found this quote from Mahatma Gandhi; “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.”

Reading that blew my mind because he wasn’t referring to hearing loss but it does apply. We are social beings, though our hearing loss makes that aspect of life a little harder. We can get around it with the right coping strategies and frame of mind (not always easy to keep I admit). My ego used bluffing and faking it keeping me seemingly ‘independent’ but it also placed a barrier between me and others. Dependence put a wall of another kind around me. The middle ground of interdependence is the path of least resistance but it takes a while to recognize it. I’m still learning that path.

Oneness in the universe doesn’t mean we are all the same. We have our various burdens but we can help each other out with unique talents we have to offer and then begins the feeling of oneness. We all need a little help from friends, family and those we run across. I’m not embarrassed by hearing loss anymore. It’s a fact in my life and I get around fairly well in spite of it. Looking back and having a name for it now, interdependence made a difference in my life.

9 thoughts on “Hearing Loss and Interdependence”

  1. I am learning to ask for help and “out” myself — it’s still a challenge. I have no issue getting help from my girls, but asking for help or even receiving help at work makes me cringe still. Thank you for the reminder that interdependence benefits both sides of the relationship.

  2. I am very up front about my hearing loss. In fact, I never got the message to be ashamed about it. Most folks in my life are pretty cool about it. Those who are not are not in my life very long. I try never to go to my kid or grandkids for help with translation – at least not more than a few words. My former husband used to help and I saw for him (he was blind). We do all need to be there for each other IMO.

  3. I am upfront about my hearing loss now. All the time. I was ashamed of it at first and I can’t really tell you why. Once out of the closet, I realized it was no big deal to tell others about it.
    I don’t ask for translations all the time nor do I ask for total translations but I think it’s no big deal to ask whoever I’m with, family or friend, for help. I know I help out in other ways. It’s give and take.

  4. The only reason I mention not relying much on family is the tendency of the Deaf to use their children as interpreters in situations the children have no business being interpreters in. The same thing happens with other folks to don’t speak the language of the country – be it an English speaker in Spain or a Spanish speaker in Australia.

    That’s my only quibble with family help. Now and then I may ask for a word or a phrase, but it is rare. Now, if it is work matter, I’m well known for staring at a phone, looking at my co-worker and saying, “You do the talking.” Especially if it is someone on the other end with an accent. 🙂

  5. You sound like you got a handle it on it all. Accents kill me too and phones aren’t easy so I pass that one off as much as possible too. To make up for it, I’ll take on another chore.

  6. I love reading books and learning as much as I can when I can’t hear conversations. I have read more books since I turned deaf 15 years now than all the reading I did in college and university put together. My favorite books are in the non fiction genre. I have learned a great deal from these books and written one book yet to be published as a result of reading and understanding the importance of living on purpose. I don’t always agree with all the sentiments expressed in the books but that is a small price to pay for what I gain reading these priceless volumes. “Awaken the Giant Within,” by Anthony Robinson is the first self improved book I read and it changed my life overnight. I have also read other books and the list is long. One phrase that kept popping out of the pages of these books “fake it till you make it.” I have difficulty with this statement. You’re real not fake. You’re unique. You can’t fake life anymore than you can live it one day at a time regardless of your physical challenge.

  7. I like to say borrow courage from someone else. I got to know the hearing loss community and there are some great role models out there for us.
    I read a lot too, both fiction and non. Living on purpose, I like it.

Leave a Reply