The Hidden Disability

Hearing loss is often called the “Hidden disability.” The reason is that no one can see the
detrimental emotional, social, and psychological effects that hearing loss can have on one’s health and
relationships. The following is an account of why hearing health is so important to one’s overall well-
being and just how much improvement in quality of life can come from treating hearing loss.

Nick is an 82 year old male who is legally bind from macular degeneration and profoundly deaf
in his left ear from a sudden hearing loss 30 years prior. Nick is a successful hearing aid user in his right
ear, which has a moderate to severe hearing loss. Nick and his wife are very active people who like to
travel and socialize with friends and family; however, Nick’s limitations often frustrated his wife because
she was held back from what she wanted to do. This created stress and tension in their relationship and
often resulted in negative comments from his wife in the office. Despite significant counseling, their
relationship continued to be strained.

To add to the situation, Nick suddenly experienced a significant drop in word recognition ability
in his only ear with hearing. In addition to significant vision problems, Nick was now struggling even
more with his hearing, and successful communication between Nick and his wife was far and few

Nick was implanted with a cochlear implant in his profoundly deaf ear, and he adapted
surprisingly quickly to the new sound. His wife reports Nick was able to converse with friends at dinner
without her assistance and actually enjoy and participate in the conversation. They also enjoyed an
amazing visit over the holidays where Nick was able to communicate with his children and grandchildren
with ease. On the last visit I had with the seemingly “newlyweds,” Nick’s wife said “Thank you for giving
us a Merry Christmas.”