Past Issues

The following are articles which have been previously published in our magazine. Click here for more information on ordering a back-issue of our magazine.

« back

Intimacy and the Hard of Hearing: What's Stopping Us? (Part 1)
by Leslie Bruce

Forming an intimate relationship is a challenging task in today's society. For our purposes, an 'intimate relationship' can be broadly interpreted as a sharing, caring, romantic bond forming between two people which eventually leads to a long-term commitment to each other. There are several factors at work here (S. Page, 1988).

In North American society, workplace skills are taught, valued and reinforced whereas skills for relating to other people are not. We are good at work, but we have not been taught how to love.

Often, we seem unable to keep the two skills in balance, and discover it hard to find time for "love" due to the pursuit of career goals. If we do embark on a relationship, we are often ill-prepared for the demands of intimacy.

A second factor is that "men and women are at difference phases of their political and social evolution. Women have learned about, and become part of 'men's world' faster than men have learned about and become part of 'women's world'. Women have gained professional and workplace skills faster than men have gained interpersonal, emotional, and nurturing skills" (S. Page, p.9).

We also seem to be a generation of adults who fear commitment. We seem to be struggling to forge relationships that provide security and intimacy, without robbing ourselves of the freedom from traditional roles and the self-sufficiency that we have worked so hard to gain over the past decades. Additionally, socializing is more difficult for women because, in most geographical areas, women slightly outnumber men.

A final factor is that "the rise of sexually transmitted disease has introduced caution and awkwardness into the early stages of romantic encounters (Page, p.9). Meeting people and forming intimate relationships is, therefore, more difficult in today's society than it was in the past.

One can generalize that people seem to strive for "perfection" and are looking for an idealized partner as portrayed by society through the media.

The process of meeting and marrying for disabled people are no different than that for the able-bodied.

Disabled people, too, desire to meet and fall in love with 'beautiful girls' or 'handsome men', who fit their image of our culture's idealized sex object (Nigro, 1977).

How does a disability affect this image? More specifically, how does hearing loss affect the potential of forming or maintaining a relationship, particularly with a partner who has no hearing loss?

In his article, "Romance, Sexuality and Hearing Loss", Reiter (1987) discusses the ear as a symbol of verbal intimacy, and a part of the body which, when excited, may arouse the desire for sexual intimacy. If the ear is the primary conduit for verbal contact in sexual relationships, what happens when the ability to take in sexual and romantic messages is reduced or cut off (Reiter, 1987)? This point can be illustrated with a situation encountered by many hard of hearing people.

Two individuals are alone together, the lights are dimmed and the music is turned on. For a hearing person, the "mood" is set for romance. To a hard of hearing person this is not a romantic moment; this is a moment of stress and tension.

Light is necessary in order to lip-read the 'sweet nothings', and music interferes with comprehension of verbal input. Communication is effectively destroyed.

There is little practical research on the relationships of hard of hearing adults. Most documentation of the subject tends to be anecdotal (Middleton, Lutes) or theoretical (Reiter, Richtberg). One exception was a minor survey by CHHA President Marilyn Dahl (1988) of 29 hard of hearing participants at a Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (B.C. Chapter) Annual General Meeting in Parksville, B.C. The results of the responses to her questionnaire were as follows: 7% broke up with a close friend / date due to hearing loss; 3% considered divorce / separation; 7% divorced / separated due to hearing loss; 79% avoided social events; 52% did leisure activities alone; 34% were lonely; 17% found it difficult to discuss hearing loss, whereas 38% found it easy.

Of the 5 hearing participants in the mini-survey, the following was revealed: all were depressed by their partner's hearing loss, irritated with the difficulty in hearing and angry with how to handle communication problems; 80% felt guilty about feeling the latter; 40% found it hard to discuss feelings; 20% were divorced /separated due to partner's hearing gloss; 100% thought the hard of hearing partner could make more of an effort to improve his / her ability to cope with the effects of hearing loss.

While the participants were few in number, this informal mini-survey did show varying degrees of dysfunction in the intimate relationships of hard of hearing adults. The results of this study make it evident that feelings about hearing gloss, comfort levels in discussing it, communication needs and the too-often resulting isolation and withdrawal have deleterious effects on establishing or maintaining intimate relationships.

In the next issue of LISTEN / ECOUTE, Part 2 or "Intimacy and the Hard of Hearing" will focus on one of the factors influencing the formation or maintenance of relationships - the negative feelings that can result from hearing loss.

If present, these feelings probably have a significant influence on how a hard of hearing person approaches a relationship. How we feel affects how we behave, which affects how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.

« back

Content Management Powered by CuteNews
Privacy Policy      Refund Policy      Contact Us