In honor of Valentine's Day, Cochlear Implant Online is proud to present our feature on Hearing Loss, Cochlear Implants, and Love! Below, you'll find the stories of nine couples, most of whom are cochlear implant recipients. They share how hearing loss makes their marriages even more special and tips for other couples with hearing loss. Also included on this page are the results of our worldwide study on Dating, Relationships, Marriage... and Hearing Loss. Enjoy reading about others' experiences and learn some new relationship tips for yourself. Like what you read? Share the love!
When you think "internet" and "romance", an often stated statement that comes to mind is, "It will not work." When we met virtually, it was through the email introduction made by another CI recipient, Gregg, Todd's brother.
Todd had questions about cochlear implants because his brother was going to get one at that time (now two). Gregg suggested that Todd ask his questions to Abbie. So an email was sent by Abbie while Todd was globetrotting with 8 high school kids in Paris, France.
Yes, Paris, the city of Love. Todd read her email while working on the students' blogs online. No, Todd didn't respond because he was on the hook for internet time for these blogs. Little did Abbie and Todd know at that time, but the City of Love had surprises up its sleeves for these two.
As soon as Todd returned to the States, email and IM correspondences between Abbie and Todd began in earnest initially about the questions Todd had. Over time, the questions morphed to discussions about other topics, and love started to bloom, like the cherry trees in full bloom.
As geekish as this may sound, in addition to email and IM, Abbie and Todd used webcam technology to keep the fire of their love strong and profound. Who said internet romance did not work sure did not meet Abbie and Todd.
On a deeper level, since there was the commonality of being deaf, it was a blessing that they didn't have to attempt to explain all the little nuances of being deaf which is difficult to explain and even harder when people try to overcompensate for it. The simplest things such as being conscientiously aware that we always need to face each other when talking makes communication effortless. We knew early on that communication was the key ingredient to keeping a relationship going strong. The number one tip that we have for other couples with a hearing loss is make sure that you communicate your thoughts and plans with each other no matter how trivial it may seem. If you feel like there has been a misunderstanding, ask for clarification without emotion. The worst thing anyone can do is jump to conclusions, make assumptions or think that the other is a mind reader.
Mark and Sarah met on the first day of freshman orientation in August 2004, at Rochester Institute of Technology, while waiting in line to get student ID photos taken. We found we had many similarities in addition to our hearing losses, such as, we were both student-athletes from Philadelphia with a passion for nature. Our relationship blossomed from that point on until our wedding day in August 2013, and continues to grow! In the day-to-day, we can relate to one another when we have embarrassing hearing moments, we can laugh together about things we think we hear, and we can both enjoy complete silence while we sleep! We're so thankful our hearing loss contributed to the foundation of our relationship. Deafness is something we live with day in and day out, so the mutual understanding of it has been extremely valuable to us and makes our bond even stronger.
Some tried-and-true tips for other hard-of-hearing couples:
Patience is a virtue, get used to repeating things more than once. The most calm and peaceful way to get your partner's attention when they're on the other side of the house, is to go talk to them in person, not to yell down the hall, expecting them to hear you (chances are, they won't). If you're going for a long road trip with your partner, learn what seating arrangement makes for the best conversations! For us, that's Mark in the driver's seat and Sarah in the passenger seat. Mark hears better out of his right ear, and Sarah hears best out of her left, so it all works out. Invest in two vibrating alarm clocks, one for each side of the bed. This helps so much if you have two different morning schedules, ie: Mark goes to work 2 hours earlier than Sarah does. Tell your partner when you're "turning off." Sometimes, Sarah will turn off her implants when she gets home from work and Mark will talk about his day, thinking Sarah is listening, but she hasn't heard a word. Communication, as with all relationships, is key! When the two of you are dealing with a third party, such as a cashier, make sure you're always listening. If one person is pulling out the credit card and doesn't hear the cashier ask "credit or debit?" at least the other can step in and speak up!
Wendi and I met through an online hard of hearing support group called "The Say What Club" back in 1997. Our hearing loss was about the same: both deaf in one ear, and we both wore a hearing aid in the other. Wendi's hearing aids were bi-CROS so she actually heard a little better than I did.
We met in person the following year and married in 2002. I guess, in our case, the hearing loss was part of the attraction, and probably enhanced our relationship rather than being an impediment. Wendi reads lips well so she handles the public communicating, while I do the phone work. We have several caption phones now so I haven't broken any in a long time!
Wendi got cochlear implants a few years ago, and she hears better now than she ever did before. I get a new hearing aid every few years and they just keep getting better so life gets easier for us. We always use captions on the TV and the same for movies.
We have never had a problem communicating with one another and, as I said, the hearing loss probably brought us closer together.
My husband, Dave, was the first person I ever dated, and the first person I ever really knew with a hearing loss. I was very used to having my significant other do the hearing for me; it took me a while to remember to be considerate and patient with him when he didn't hear me. You'd think it would come instinctively, but I'd never tried to communicate with someone else who had hearing loss! Between the two of us, we make sure to position ourselves by the other person's 'good' ear, make sure our faces/lips are visible, no yelling from another room if we can avoid it, and we each fill in for the other in our weak areas. I hate the phone with a passion, so Dave makes almost all phone calls. I'm better at lip reading, so I handle a lot of our face-to-face encounters, especially in noisy environments like stores and restaurants.
Our marriage has benefited because we both totally understand the challenges of living with hearing loss. Neither of us likes loud, social gatherings -- we never go to bars, we tend to order in rather than eat in restaurants -- and because of that, there's never that feeling of, "You never want to go out or do what I want to do!" We are both very happy to hang out together at home, or in quiet environments with other people. There's just an instinctive patience and consideration that we have for each other. I don't get exasperated if I have to repeat myself for Dave, and vice versa. When my CIs are off, I'm completely deaf -- he automatically speaks more clearly and makes sure I can see his face to lip read, or we use some of the basic signs that we both know. I can't think of anyone else I want to spend my time with -- I love him with all my heart!
When we were married almost 37 years ago we both had normal hearing. About 15 years into our marriage, Connie’s hearing began to deteriorate and eventually she received bilateral cochlear implants. Three years later Mike suddenly went deaf in one ear in a matter of minutes. So I suppose you could say our “hearing” marriage came full circle.
Our hearing loss makes us more special because we can literally tune each other out—of course Connie has the advantage there. What our losses really have done is give us a better appreciation of what we each experience in the course of a day. Few couples ever experience such a life altering event in their lives together and for us it was probably more difficult because we were late deafened. Initially when only Connie had a loss, while Mike was beyond belief helpful and caring, he still wasn’t walking in Connie’s shoes. He had the most patience any wife could ever ask for and was always willing to make phone calls, answer questions, etc. but he couldn’t fully understand her perspective. When Mike lost his hearing, although Connie didn’t have to make phones calls for him, there still were times when she had to help him maneuver life with a hearing loss. The role reversal was extremely enlightening for both of us and while we both would have preferred it not have happened, it did bring us closer in a unique way.
While it is not necessarily easy, patience is extremely important. Having a hearing loss is frustrating and just because you too have a loss doesn’t mean it is easy to be patient with your spouse/partner. Connie learned the other side of hearing loss quickly when Mike lost his hearing and she will admit that she was not always patient. Don’t underestimate the fact that straining to hear is tiring. Stop, take time to rest, catch your breath and make time to connect—we have a rule that television is always off during dinner time (our connecting time).
Learn to adapt and pay attention to your environment and manipulate it to fit both of your needs—for us that means Mike’s good ear is always on the side of the waitress and Connie watches to see where the most amount of noise is coming from. Try not to shout, it only frustrates both of you, and give yourself a break, just because neither one of you heard what someone said doesn’t mean it is your fault. Sometimes normal hearing individuals don’t hear things either, no one hears perfectly. Be willing to learn how you can improve your own situation while also helping your spouse/partner. Keep abreast of new innovations that can improve both of your lives and make communicating easier—learning about hearing loss never ends.
Keep your sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously. So you asked for potatoes and steak at the store and your spouse/partner comes home with tomatoes and a cake. Dinner menu might be wrecked but look at it as an opportunity to eat out and who doesn’t love a nice chocolate cake. Or someone says something, you think they said one thing, your partner thinks something else was said and come to find out neither one of you is correct. While we both know all of this is easier said than done, laugh, live, never give up one yourself or each other, and most importantly, love.
I met my wife Claire, in mid-2009 at a Cochlear Implant Users meeting at The Gables, a tavern in Herne Bay, Auckland. It was where some cochlear implant users would meet for a monthly get-together to chat and socialise. Claire was new to New Zealand and beginning an "Overseas Experience" work program for a year.
I missed the next meeting for some reason. Then, the following month, we met again. We communicated with ease. We understood each other’s joys and pitfalls of life with a cochlear implant. We also spoke about our lives and growing up in mainstream education. Claire was implanted in the United Kingdom exactly a year after I was implanted. We shared so much in common, yet grew up half a world apart.
We met for lunch at a cafe one day. We talked about Claire’s volunteer work for the Deaf Association, whilst looking for a paid job. Our relationship began to grow.
Fast-forward to July 2011, we travelled to the U.K. to visit Claire’s hometown of Salisbury, Wiltshire. We also enjoyed a few days in Paris, France. Whilst dining at top of the Eiffel Tower, I popped the question with the ring. For the rest of the night, I was on Cloud Nine! We cruised along the River Seine before going to see a show at the Moulin Rouge. It has to be one of the best nights of my life!
One year later we returned to the U.K. and exchanged vows. It was a perfect sunny September day, and one I shall never forget! Friends and family still comment on how wonderful it all was. We spent our honeymoon on a cruise around the Mediterranean. Now 16 months on, and we continue to grow together. Both of us are very grateful for our cochlear implants and how much they have enriched our lives, in more ways than one!
Howard and I met in 1989 in a noisy gymnasium where we were playing volleyball with other single 20-somethings. He struck up a friendly conversation between games immediately causing me to comment on my hearing loss. I didn’t want him to think I was ditzy as I struggled to catch every third word he said using my ace speech-reading skills and the best auditory information I could get from my high-powered hearing aids. My profound hearing loss was just beginning to have a serious impact on my independent lifestyle.
After learning of my hearing loss, he chimed in, “Me too!” much to my great surprise. A quick glance at his ears showed no sign of any hearing aids, which I later learned he didn’t wear while playing sports.
We quickly began dating, meeting up several times a week after work to go to dinner, movies and hang out with friends. It was my first experience dating a man with hearing loss and what an experience it was! Unlike me, Howard had never learned to lipread. He also didn’t wear his hearing aids regularly. Since he could hear somewhat without his aids, he didn’t view them as a necessity as I did mine.
Dating him made me realize how lucky I had been for so many years to have such patient friends and family who were constantly repeating what they said to me, especially on the phone when I couldn’t see their lips. Patience has never been one of my greatest virtues but I was beginning to learn!
However, after a few weeks of dating and constantly repeating what I said, one evening I exasperatedly blurted out, “I can’t date you anymore if you don’t wear your hearing aids!” Fearing I had ruined the relationship in one fell swoop, I am quite happy to note that he wore them every day after that. We were married on June 22, 1991.
Being married to someone with hearing loss has been interesting to say the least and not at all what I expected. Our levels of hearing loss and adaptive skills differed greatly. Whereas Howard had better hearing, he fared worse in noisy restaurants and social situations than I did. During the next few years my hearing worsened and I became a cochlear implant candidate in the late 1990s. After a few months of auditory rehabilitation I began to soar with my cochlear implants; able to hear on a cell phone again (after 3 years without) and began to understand people without needing to look at their faces, something I don’t ever recall being able to do. Our then six year old daughter received her first cochlear implant around that time as well and Howard watched as we reclaimed our independence and the quality of our lives vastly improved.
He half-jokingly sent his audiogram to my cochlear implant audiologist to see if he was eligible. He wasn’t. A few years later, candidacy requirements had changed a bit, as had his hearing. One of his ears just made eligibility and he was quickly implanted in 2012. As I expected, he adapted faster than a speeding bullet and we all marvel daily at the technology that has brought the true gifts of speech and sound to so many. We never take it for granted.
While much of our early life together was focused on hearing loss, its deterioration, cochlear implant surgeries (5 among us) and relocation for an oral deaf school for our daughter, our lives now are much more typical. Our daughter is heading off to a college of her choice in the fall, our sons perform in local theater groups and stand-up comedy acts that we enthusiastically watch and listen to with our improved hearing and we are actively engaged in rewarding careers.
Everyone says the key to a happy marriage is communication. My tip for couples with hearing loss is to make communication as easy as possible. Get your hearing checked regularly. Research the latest hearing aids and cochlear implant technology. Don’t let professionals tell you that you aren’t eligible for certain devices. Learn to speech read. Ask for quiet corner tables whenever you dine out. Face your partner when speaking. Get their attention first before talking if necessary. Think of all the things that help you hear your best and do the same for your partner. Happy Valentine’s Day!
We are Fabrizio and Laura and we have been married for eleven years, after seven years of dating. We have a hearing child who is five years old.
We both have been profoundly deaf since early childhood and educated with the oralism method. We both wore hearing aids, and we do not know Italian Sign Language.
Currently, we are both right, unilateral MED-EL cochlear implant recipients, Laura for ten years and Fabrizio for two years.
We live and work in the province of Como in Italy. Laura is a teacher of Law and Economics at a high school while Fabrizio is a bank employee.
The special part of the marriage between two deaf people is that there are a greater number of moments in which you do not feel such a strong need to fill the silence, but this does not mean there is a lack of dialogue.
There is a greater understanding in knowing when the other is tired and needs to isolate himself/herself aurally and maybe even remove the implant.
We share the hearing difficulties that are encountered in certain noisy or crowded places and help each other, sometimes without needing to speak. We just look at each other and understand how to resolve the problem.
The empathic understanding level is very high and this can sometimes be counterproductive because the other is not always able to conceal his moods.
We both have excellent lip-reading skills that give us an advantage in many situations, and particularly in the joint management of our educational approach towards our child, who is 5 years old now.
Our son realizes that there is a verbal complication between mom and dad, and he would be love to be able to decipher to get what he wants, such as a new game or an ice cream.
Another strong point is that we both share a strong passion for research of various technological aids as well as legislative aspects of our deafness.
Just as in every couple, it takes a great deal of patience that for us is greater in respect to getting the attention of the other. In fact sometimes one of the two is too lazy to listen to the other partner or other persons with whom you are in company.
Finally, it is important to learn how to develop one's own personal experience of deafness through the experience of the other. One must learn to overcome personal pride and moments of discomfort that sometimes arise when one of the partners has greater hearing results than the other partner.
“Double the Trouble” was my negative response, when asked if I would agree to go out with a prospective date who was hard of hearing. Little did I know that less than two months later, I would meet my future wife, Tania at the A.G. Bell Convention in Little Rock Arkansas (me travelling from Toronto, Canada, and she from London, UK).
Now married 14 years, and two children later, we have managed an incredible teamwork that has been a journey of many ups and downs. Our kids, Jacob and Eliana are both bilaterally implanted, and both Tania and I have unilateral implants. Can you count how many CI processors in the house??!! We both embraced the technology to the fullest to make our daily lives easier (cell phones & flashing lights), yet still resort to the old fashioned (waving hands to get one’s attention). We even make use of texting to find each other in the same house as we can't always hear when calling for one another.
The key has always been to work together through these challenges and keep a good sense of humour as we both share common dreams. It doesn’t hurt that we can sleep in on Sunday mornings while the kids play noisily downstairs! We can relate to our kids' experiences and put ourselves in their shoes as Tania and I both grew up with hearing loss, and we work hard to help them compensate when possible. Having a hearing loss does add to our challenges, but we take it one day at a time. So to my wife Tania – here’s to many more years ahead – and it wasn’t double the trouble after all – it was Twice the Joy. Happy Valentine’s Day!
The way we met was just as special as the resurgence of hearing we've both had in our lives. Last February, we both found ourselves in San Diego, California at Cochlear's bi-annual Celebration, and we were introduced to each other on Valentine's Day none the less. Now one year later we'll be getting married in Tybee Island, Georgia on the opposite coast on Valentine's Day. It was a special connection from the start and amazing to look back at how much can change in a year.
As a person with hearing loss, being in a relationship with another person who has shared that same experience is very comforting. We have both seen the highs and lows, and can perfectly relate to each other's struggles and accomplishments. We understand how frustrating a noisy restaurant can be, and how socializing can be a challenge. It's something truly amazing when you realize "this person has actually walked in my shoes," and it creates a deeper connection than most get to experience.
Having walked the same path of hearing loss, there are many things we've picked up along the way that help us relate to each other and strengthen our relationship. We remind ourselves that raising our voices won't always help the other person hear better, but often they just need the words repeated clearly. Another thing we've found is that humans have five senses and hearing is just one of them. Sometimes it's nice to just take a break from hearing, and simply enjoy each other's company. Lastly, we always keep in mind how far we've come. Sometimes we have to remind each other that simple, little day-to-day frustrations pale in comparison to the mountains we've both overcome in our lives. Being in a relationship with another person that fully understands your greatest and weakest moments gives you the freedom to be yourself and the confidence to know you will always be loved no matter what.