Hearing loss does not discriminate. It impacts people of all ages, races, creeds, and phases of life. It can be caused genetically, or from excess noise, or from ototoxic drugs. Sometimes it happens suddenly. Other times it sneaks up gradually as part of the aging process. But one thing is true for all — hearing loss will affect your life. The degree and type of impact is partially up to you.

Will you let your hearing loss embarrass you — giving into the stigma that is often associated with hearing issues? Will you avoid social situations, hiding your struggles from friends and family? I made these mistakes for ten years, following in the footsteps of my father, who went out of his way to hide his hearing loss from everyone.

Or will you rise to the challenge, advocating for yourself as needed, and continuing to live boldly, with humor, and passion for whatever moves you. I do this as best as I can today — coming clean about my hearing loss with friends, family and strangers. I also write this weekly blog where I share my personal ups and downs living with hearing loss and provide tips for self-advocacy. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help others to live more comfortably with their own hearing issues.

What path will you choose? I hope it is the latter. The first step is acceptance.

An Ode To Hearing Loss Acceptance

A — Allow yourself to grieve for the loss of your hearing. It is a loss and you should give yourself the time to recognize this change in circumstances.

C — Communicate to others about your hearing loss. This is the only way to get their support and assistance.

C — Commit to living life fully. Make adjustments to your life to minimize the impact of hearing loss on your activities, work and personal relationships.

E — Engage with the hearing loss community. Find an HLAA chapter or similar group where you can interact with other people with hearing loss.

P — Practice hearing your best. Experiment with different settings on your hearing aids or play lipreading games with your family to improve your skills. Practice builds confidence.

T — Treat your hearing loss. Research the best hearing assistance options for your particular situation. Untreated hearing loss is associated with significant health problems including an increased risk of dementia.

A — Advocate for yourself. Request quiet tables at restaurants and remind people to face you when they speak to you. Ask for what you need and you are more likely to receive it.

N — Normalize your hearing loss. Don’t hide it. Make it part of your family dynamic. The more comfortable you are with it, the more comfortable others will be with it too.

C — Crash through stigma. Don’t internalize the inaccurate and embarrassing stereotypes surrounding hearing loss. Put a new face to the issue — your own.

E — Expect hiccups along the way. Tackle them with humor and a positive attitude. Be persistent and if something is not working, try something else.

Readers, do you accept your hearing loss?

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Originally published at livingwithhearingloss.com on November 29, 2016.