Every February 14th, every couple holding hands on an evening stroll and every public embrace can make hard of hearing singles feel more alone. This isn’t about trying to keep up with the Joneses. As humans, we’re genetically created to seek connection. If you are unmarried or not in a relationship, you still wonder why you are alone.
The desire for companionship or deep, meaningful relationships is available for hearing people and people with hearing loss. Although one would think that the desires are all the same, there is a unique set of challenges that hard of hearing people have to face in forming connections- one that no other disability or person without disability can understand or express.
Looking at all the dating advice, they say you must put yourself out there. Go on a speed dating networking event. Pick up data from a dating app. Strike a conversation at a coffee shop. This advice assumes hearing other people in these situations will be easy, and instant attraction can be made. This advice doesn’t mention whether it’s right or wrong to disclose your hearing loss to another person. What happens when your hearing device doesn’t work well when you let your date choose a meeting place? Or when you appear aloof or disinterested because you didn’t hear them ask you a question between looking at your plate to avoid the spaghetti sauce from not splashing onto your white shirt and reading their lips in a dark-lit room.
Dating when you’re a hard of hearing single is, well, hard. This article is designed to help you find ways to form meaningful connections without the barriers that come up in dating situations.
Understanding the Unique Challenges of Hard of Hearing Singles
Communication barriers at the start of an encounter
Every relationship starts with the first interaction. It could be a glance across, the utterance of the word ‘hello,’ or, like in the Victorian era, a lady dropped a handkerchief in front of a guy to signal she was open to conversation. In today’s time, a lot of handkerchiefs would be lying around the ground, especially since Gen Z men are not interested in dating much these days.
After that initial encounter, words will be exchanged. We exchange words to develop rapport that will build beyond the initial attraction. And when I mention attraction, I’m not referring to sexual attraction. I’m referring to the kind of attraction that helps progress a relationship from awkward strangers to a first date.
It’s challenging to build that initial rapport when you meet someone who doesn’t know sign language like you do or when you can’t hear clearly what that person says. A big part of the human mind is being able to decipher between so much information and stimuli to help make decisions quickly and keep us safe. First impressions can make or break a situation that could lead to many more interactions.
Difficulty in hearing and understanding conversations
I wonder if you’ve ever thought how many times someone called for your attention, but you didn’t hear them. Or you called out to someone else but were not loud enough to get their attention. It hurts to get rejected, and anyone who experiences a situation where someone ignores them gets into defence mode to protect their ego from further damage.
Even if you were able to get each other’s attention, you would still be left with an uphill battle should you encounter people who are difficult to understand or make out their words. Some people can project their voices clearly and talk loud enough. If you meet those, you’re off to a good start. But what if they mumble when they speak or have a full beard that prevents you from lip-reading? What if you intended to slip in and out and not talk to anyone in a noisy venue like a coffee shop? Getting someone to repeat what they just said over and over again will be enough to break the flow of the conversation into a difficult one.
If you are lucky enough to meet someone with hearing loss just like yourself, it will break the ice a bit more. However, communicating with someone with hearing loss is not always easier. You’ll notice that we all have different hearing, speaking and lip-reading abilities that still require learning and adjusting to anyone you meet—those who all sign will find fewer concerns with the communication problem.
Isolation in the company of others
We know that staying home alone doesn’t bring any potential partner knocking on your door (I blame you, Disney movie!). We can easily mistake our comfort for isolation and introvert-tendency personality for something else. We think we are staying away from the energy-draining outside world. However, we must put ourselves in situations where we can interact with potential partners.
However, not all situations bring out the best side of oneself to attract interest from others. You might have built a whole list of hobbies, but more often than not, some activities require only you to attend. Hobbies like swimming, skiing, and biking tend to lean more as independent activities. They don’t make great activities to meet someone in action.
If you pick activities that require you to interact with other people and connect with them, you will see how quickly you start to retreat, and no one notices you are there. Following along the conversation and keeping up with the sounds in an array of background noises can be difficult. It is easier to node along, but then you project yourself to be aloof when you are not.
Sometimes, others think you are too difficult to communicate with and would rather avoid talking with you and choose someone else.
Misconceptions others and you have about dating
It’s a myth that it’s hard to find romantic partners as hard of hearing singles
People who are hard of hearing are entering romantic relationships. Luckily, we have social media, and ex-Bachelor contestants do show us many people who are hard of hearing experiencing a committed relationship.
Desirability and worthiness are available to all human beings. Your inability to hear doesn’t make you less desirable. Others who believe hearing is undesirable can’t be a good match for partners, even if you want them to like you.
It’s a myth to say communication barriers prevent meaningful connections
Although there are no statistics showing the percentage of hard of hearing in a relationship, we have to work harder in our relationships to meet those communication gaps.
Most relationships have communication barriers, even if the couple does or doesn’t have hearing loss. Communication is one of the biggest breakdowns in a marriage. It’s also something that each couple needs to work on. The key thing to understand is that most standards for communication between a person and an individual with hearing loss are different than hearing couples.
Those open to exploring and creating a new way of communicating will be able to create meaningful connections. Those who want to do what the rest of society does will continue to struggle. It’s like wearing a shoe far too small and trying to push your feet in to fit. It becomes far too painful to endure for a long time. You want to find someone you enjoy being around because they care to meet your needs and build a better bond.
Ways to Build Connections
There are solutions or things we can do to bring more luck our way. It doesn’t require sitting at home watching another romantic Hallmark movie on your couch. If only life could be like a Hallmark movie.
Embracing self-acceptance and confidence
They say it is hard for other people to love you if you don’t love yourself. Every good connection and relationship starts with working on yourself from within.
Overcome your insecurities
If you can’t talk kindly to yourself in your thoughts, it shows in how others treat you. A lot of your negative talk and judgement about yourself creates the insecurities you express to the world.
Some underlying negative beliefs exist if you are avoiding putting yourself out there or holding yourself back. Work to unlock those beliefs by reading books to access experts or speaking with a skilled therapist.
Daily mantras may not be enough. Insecurities won’t go away overnight. They go away over time as you create more experiences, attempt to challenge your beliefs, and not let those few negative situations in your life be the verdict for holding on to your insecurities.
Recognize your worth
The first step in getting close to your desire is believing you can get what you want. Your worth isn’t about what you do but who you are. Who you are alone is worthy of love and connection. No one comes on earth deprived of being worthy. It’s like oxygen; we all can source it through the air.
Build your sense of worthiness by treating yourself with respect and kindness. Be your best advocate when it comes to acknowledging your desires and wants. Being in a good relationship is about authentically letting those desires be known and being willing to receive love and respect from others.
Once your inner world is healed, you can start exploring ways to engage others. Whether we like it or not, dating is the next milestone we need to reach to get closer to finding a connection.
Being upfront about who you are
Remember that you want to be authentic and yourself in any situation. Forcing yourself to be someone else and unnatural in situations can unintentionally repel others away.
This is a tricky subject for most people with hearing loss. Telling someone at the very start may clear the air, but telling too soon could make someone uncomfortable, especially if they have not met anyone with hearing loss before.
On the one hand, it’s beneficial to let other people know right away to help filter anyone who has no respect for people with hearing loss. You want to know very fast because otherwise, you are living in a false sense that the other person respects and values you. Sadly, some people who cross your path have too much ego and their own insecurities. They expect others to be perfect human beings. Yet, they can’t measure to the same standards. Everyone has imperfections, and the quicker you can accept them, the better for longevity in a connection.
You may wait a bit longer to tell someone about your hearing loss. You may think it will avoid distracting someone from making your hearing loss the focal point of the conversation and the only thing they can think or talk about. However, if someone is bothered or uncomfortable about your hearing loss, it’s not your business to make them comfortable.
Sometimes, the conversation may not lend itself to you sharing your hearing loss right away because there isn’t any need. If you can hear them clearly in the setting and things are going okay, bringing it up as if you’re confessing to a crime is not necessary. Remember, your hearing loss is not your only identity. It’s just a part of you, as many things uniquely shape who you are.
Advocate for yourself
Speak up and take action to get what you want and need to thrive and make real connections.
Leverage what works
As mentioned before, you can’t expect your way of life to resemble any journey of two hearing people dating. You will be operating a different path, but your pathway needs to work for you. Find activities that will make connections a lot easier. Use past experience as a guide.
Using dating apps to start the conversation
Dating apps help avoid the initial in-person conversation. They have chat features, where most matches enjoy conversing during the early interactions. This removes the stress and anxiety of hearing someone clearly at the first encounter.
Eventually, you’ll have to meet in person. As comfortable as it is to be in a digital relationship, it isn’t the same as a real one. Apps can allow you to find someone to meet, but they don’t replace a real relationship when you are involved in each other’s day-to-day lives and living out shared values.
Some dating apps have audio calls; you can progress to a voice or video chat before meeting in person. If your phone’s Bluetooth connection is good enough, this might be an option.
There are so many dating apps out there, and they have similar drawbacks of unwanted attention and poor match using the algorithm. However, even niche apps, whether for people of a specific ethnicity or those designed for the deaf and hard of hearing community, may attract unwanted attention and poor match. Just be aware that no single way will always be perfect.
These tools are a numbers game, and you need to be super good at marketing yourself using the right picture and text to get the attention of an admirer. Like in life, there will be many more disappointments before finding the one. So be open, but be intentional about the process of online dating.
There is probably at least one activity you enjoy. If you haven’t found out what it is, start examining what interests you and testing it out. You want to be able to find someone in your community to do in your free time.
Rather than attending a speed dating or dating event and feeling awkward, you want to be doing something that is in your element. Your body will be relaxed, you will appear more comfortable in the space, and it can open up opportunities for someone to approach you or you approaching someone else.
When people are taken away from their regular routines, they can see people and others differently for the better. Travelling, camping and team-building activities are great ways for others to get to know you better. You are more present with who is in front of you and not the distractions of other options on an app. It allows your personality to shine and be receptive. It is even better if you are choosing activities to spend time with other people who share similar values and outlooks in life as you have.
Making connections as a hard of hearing single is possible. It just takes a different approach. Recognize that anyone meeting you for the first time can be different. This doesn’t mean that you are not a worthy or unattractive person who will be single forever. It just means you should explore and connect with your potential partner by taking a different path.
Your path will be reflected in where you are most comfortable being you, stepping out to create opportunities to meet others, learning to accept and respect yourself, and not being defined by your current situation.
Even if you follow all the advice, timing will make a difference. So many influences make two people stand next to each other and spark a relationship. Every decision and situation your potential partner needs to make in advance to find you is truly out of your hands, but magic when it does happen.
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