What Dating Is Like When You Have Hearing Loss

Photographed by Eylul Aslan.
As anyone who's spent time the dating world over the past few years can attest, very rarely will you find yourself in for a smooth ride.
Between dating apps and ghosting, f**k boys and breadcrumbing, it's a wonder that population growth hasn't stalled thanks to how flipping hard it can be to meet anyone you'd like to do anything more with than shake hands.
Imagine, then, if you had another unexpected element to throw into the mix: hearing loss.
Hearing loss affects 37.6 million adults in the U.S. — that's around 15 percent of us. And according to a report from Action On Hearing Loss, people with hearing loss are more likely to experience emotional distress and loneliness. They are also at double the risk of developing depression.
Louise, a twentysomething from Suffolk, U.K., has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss of a severe-to-profound nature. This means that she has "rubbish" (her word) hearing in both ears and, in order to converse, relies on both hearing aids and lip reading.
She currently has a boyfriend, but before they got together, she was navigating the tricky world of dating. Here, Louise fills us in on the highs and lows of dating with hearing loss.
You wear hearing aids. How helpful are they?
"The hearing aids obviously don't fix or make up for the hearing loss: They amplify all sounds. Unlike normal hearing, I'm unable to adjust and focus on something, for example, someone talking in a loud environment. Instead, everything is amplified, making it very difficult or near-impossible to hear that person.
"Another barrier I find is that some people don't see past my hearing aids. They see them first before they give me a chance, and this immediately puts them off talking to me and getting to know me."
Where did you meet the people you've dated?
"I met my current boyfriend at the [gym] where he works while he was covering for reception. I'm not a fan of dating sites. I'd prefer to meet someone in person, although it's difficult for me because of my hearing, and my lack of confidence puts me off."
If you did meet someone online, would you tell them about your hearing loss before meeting IRL?
"I got talking to my current boyfriend first after he friended me on Facebook, and I told him after a few minutes of chatting so he could see the real funny and jokey me before I told him I was deaf. He didn't care one bit, which was a bonus!"
Have you ever had anyone react in a less than favorable way?
"I haven't had a boyfriend who has reacted badly, but I've had guys interested in me and then put off by my hearing loss, definitely. They back off all of a sudden."
How do you find meeting people in bars or chatting people up?
"I'm useless in those situations! Before I met my boyfriend two years ago, I used to go clubbing with my best friend and got a few guys approach me and try chatting to me. I had no idea what they were saying and my friend and me couldn't stop laughing. It was awful and awkward but I saw the funny side of it."
Do you think apps like Tinder and Bumble have made it easier or harder?
"It's easier as you can chat to someone without the pressure of having to hear them and you can get to know them first. I don't really use them, though."
Like everything, there are specialist dating sites for people with hearing loss — have you ever tried them?
"I did think about joining a dating site for deaf people when I was single. I made an account but chickened out before using it!"
What’s the best date place in terms of allowing you and your date to communicate effectively?
"My first date with my boyfriend was a quiet pub in the mid-afternoon on a weekday. We sat in the beer garden in the sun. Luckily there was no one out there, just us, so it was perfect!"
Are there any total red flags for you on dates?
"Awkward silences once I've told them about my hearing. But most of all, if I ask them to repeat themselves and they act strangely [or just] say 'Don't worry.' I don't have any horror stories that I'm aware of. I just mishear things a lot on dates. But I just laugh it off."
What’s the one thing about dating while deaf that you wish hearing people understood?
"The need to understand and be patient. It's harder to connect with someone and hit it off straightaway. It's harder to respond when someone is flirting and pick up on conversation cues. I had no idea my boyfriend was trying to flirt with me when I met him — I didn't hear what he said and turned to walk away when he spoke to me!"
What the biggest mistake hearing people make when they're communicating with deaf people?
"Talking VERY LOUDLY and slowly! It's quite patronizing!"

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