Dear Abby: My husband, “Norm,” has become profoundly deaf. He has a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other; neither has helped much. He has extreme difficulty with speech recognition. We can talk together in the quiet of our home as long as I sit right next to him and speak slowly. We use assisted-listening devices to communicate with each other in the car or at a restaurant.
Norm’s hearing loss has affected us as a couple. We no longer have a social life. When Norm and I are out together, we become “invisible” to other couples. It’s just too much work for anyone to communicate with us.
We are about to move to a retirement community where one meal a day is included in the dining room. I’m worried about how we will navigate the social aspects of eating with others, who will rapidly decide they don’t want to eat with us again because of the difficulty of trying to chat with Norm.
Norm is well aware of this problem. He has proposed that he eat alone in our apartment while I go to the dining room and meet people, unencumbered by his impairment. Can you advise?
Trapped in a Situation
Before moving into the retirement community, make a point of discussing your husband’s severe hearing impairment with the director, the nurse and/or their medical adviser because they need to be made aware of your husband’s special needs in order to be able to accommodate him, if it’s possible.
According to the House Clinic in Los Angeles (www.houseearclinic.com), he will probably be advised to check in with his otologist (a doctor who specializes in the anatomy and physiology of the ear) to see if anything further can be done to improve his hearing. I hope you will follow through with that suggestion, because advances are being made in this field every year, and it may help your husband be less isolated.
Dear Abby: What is the rule of etiquette in sending out and signing Christmas cards from my family when one child is over 20 and in college? Do I send cards from just my husband, me, and the kids still living at home? Or should I also include my son, the one away at college?
Even if your son is away at college, he is still a part of your family, so include him. Once he has finished with school and is out on his own, that would be the time to suggest he start sending his own greetings.
Tell them gradually when they start asking questions. If they ask why Daddy died, say he was very ill. When they want to know what the illness was, tell them he suffered from depression. When they want more details, reveal them in an age-appropriate manner.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.