For curiosities sake, I went to my favorite hearing loss forums and discussion boards and counted the number of topics that had to do with “hurt feelings” and being “too sensitive”. I knew the subject had come up in one form or another on every site I’ve been too, yet I was surprised to finally give up counting after 75 “finds”!
Just like people with “normal” hearing, people with hearing loss can be too sensitive. This subject has been discussed a great deal in my household lately, and you’ll note my daughter recently posted on this topic. What does being “sensitive” even mean?
According to one source, (as it pertains to feelings and people), it can mean:
Of a person, easily offended, upset or hurt.
This is different that being sensitive to the burdens, worries, and problems of others. That type of sensitivity stems from an empathy that leads you to step in and make a difference. (Something ALL of us should learn to do better!) When you have this kind of sensitivity, you are in high demand as a friend. Your sensitivity is towards OTHERS, not self.
But people with hearing loss can be too sensitive to the comments made by others, or even facial expression and body language. I know this because I AM a person with hearing loss, and I can BE this way sometimes! In the beginning especially, I found it very hard not to react in a really defensive way towards others. Through observing the examples of those who modeled genuine acceptance for who they are, I too, have learned to appreciate the good and bad of hearing loss.
How can you know if you are highly sensitive?
Psychologist Kyra Mesich asks the following questions:
Do you feel emotions often and deeply?
Are you keenly aware of other people’s feelings?
Are you easily hurt or upset by insults or unkind remarks?
Do you avoids conflicts and confrontations?
Can you not easily release sad or upset feelings?
Do you feel deeply for others’ suffering and pain?
Are you prone to recurrent depression?
Are you keenly aware of and affected by beauty (art, music, nature)?
Do you feel overwhelmed or depleted by too much stimuli (large crowds, loud noises, hectic environments)?
Were you sensitive as a child?
If you answer “yes” to some or many of these questions, chances are you are very sensitive. You’ll note that some of things things are POSITIVE! Some of these are considered to be a strength and add to your character. Some types of sensitivity create problems, however. This negative type of sensitivity can alienate the people who love you, and hurt your character.
I believe that many times an acquired disability creates new feelings of sensitivity that perhaps were not there before. Some people feel like their entire world has changed, and nothing is as it was! They become “hyper” sensitive as they re-learn how to interact with their world now that one of their major senses is missing.
What are some things that can help you become less sensitive? (When I say this I do not mean that we should become “hardened” towards the needs of others! I mean that we become less defensive, and overreact “less”!)
I’d love to hear from some of you! Feel free to email me your own ideas, or post a comment of some tips of your own! (Check/click “comments” as needed as some will likely post their own ideas in this section instead of emailing. Emailed comments will be cut/pasted at the end in RED. ) Some things I have thought of…
1. Learn to give the benefit of the doubt.
This is not easy to adopt, yet we really can change our way of thinking and learn to give the benefit of the doubt to others. We should start with those close to us, and trust their hearts that they meant no harm in what they said. Don’t try to tell me that you can’t ignore what your heart and “feeler” is experiencing! Take it from someone who use to wear their feelings on their sleeves! You really CAN change the way you think! Deliberately choose to “believe the best”, time after time. Eventually it will become a habit, and you will find that you assume the best in a natural way. At first, however, you may have to consciously CHOOSE to think in a positive manner. (Phil. 4:8)
2. If unsure, immediately ask for clarification.
Especially in the beginning, you may need to do a lot of this! After all, you are trying to break a bad habit of over-reacting to people’s comments or expression! If you are left puzzling (or “smarting”) over something someone said, hold up your hand and ask! Something as simple as… “Whoa! Wait a minute! You ARE teasing, aren’t you?” Don’t sit around stewing about it if you aren’t sure!
3. Learn to notice the “silliness” too… and notice it FIRST!
What a revelation it was to me to learn that the tension in a situation could be easily diffused by being the first to notice how silly it was! If I mishear something, I have learned to stop and parrot what I thought I heard. Sometimes it is hysterical! I believe this helps others in two very important ways.
1) Others learn HOW you sometimes hear something. It may cause them to choose their words more carefully in the future.
2) They learn that you are a “safe” person. You can see the “funny” in life and look at things in a positive light. If you are comfortable with your disability, chance are they will be too.
4. Recognize that being “sensitive” is not a positive trait.
I’m always amazed when people brag like it’s a GOOD thing to be a really sensitive person! Certainly if we are sensitive to the needs of others, we can really be used to make a difference! But if your sensitivity is in how you respond to others, then it has become all about “SELF”. We become so intent on how WE feel or were made to feel, we totally miss looking to others. By realizing what a negative trait it is to be highly sensitive, we can better change a behavior we have developed or inherited. If you don’t first see how this is hurting who you are and what you can be, it is unlikely you will be stimulated to change! “Own” that you have a problem and need to change.
5. Determine if the real issue is SELF-esteem.
It was very liberating for me to realize that one of the reasons I over-reacted to everything was my own poor self-esteem. A phrase often used to describe me was that she “makes mountains out of mole-hills!” (I still have my mole-moments! Smile!) It may be that you need to work on YOU, before you can get past being overly sensitive to others. Find some good books or devotionals on self-esteem. One CAN improve their self-esteem. If we have a poor opinion of ourselves now that we are deaf, chances are we think everyone else feels the same way.
In the end, what helped me the most was that I wanted to be surprised when someone WAS deliberately trying to hurt me. I had been living as though people meant something in a mean way, and was surprised to discover they did not. I desperately wanted to change that around. I wanted to live and respond in such a way that it was normal for people to mean well. The only surprise I wanted to experience was when someone WAS intentionally trying to hurt me. I’ve found that I’m rarely surprised.
© Hearing Loss Journal
(From LB) I was once told “We only tease those we love”. After I became super sensitive about things, people quit teasing me. I looked around and noticed that there were very few people who loved me enough to trust me with good-natured teasing. That told me a lot. I vowed to change my ways!
(From TTU) Your quote about being a “safe” person reminded me of a great book entitled: “Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. People who are overly sensitive are not “safe”. I didn’t want to become one of those people after my hearing loss!
(From Vicki) I know that I am sensitive. I am learning in ways how to deal with it. This does not always have anything to do with my hearing loss. Some people tease me in a friendly way and at first I did not take it that way until one person pulled me aside and said that others were just trying to lighten the mood around me as I can be too serious at times. When I started commenting in a friendly teasing way back to them, they were pleased that I was coming around and included me in more things. I am now learning to listen to how the comments are said and who is saying it. This can make a difference into who is stating it. I am also learning to take things one day at a time. I am also learning to be more positive in the way I handle things as the more I do this, the more people has been responsive and truly trying to help me out. This is a step by step process and I was fortunate enough to have a friend who took the time to work with me. I still have a long ways to go.
Thanks for sharing this with us Denise and enlightening us with such a wonderful way of opening us up to how we need to learn to face all this.