• Keeping Friends

Hearing loss and friendship

Published: June 19, 2014 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
A male with hearing loss speculates about why he’s losing friends


Hi Irene,

I am a 51-year-old gay male with hearing loss who has difficulties in social circles. My spouse and I have been away (out of the area) for five years but we maintained relationships with our closest friends.

Since moving back to this area within the last year, it has been difficult reestablishing preexisting relationships. For example, two of my spouse’s best friends invited him for a luncheon and during the course of their meals proceeded to tell my spouse that the reason newer friends haven’t invited us is because of my behavior when intoxicated. Granted, there have been moments when I overstep my boundaries but no one was ever hurt during the process.

I know others seem to do the same thing as me but due to not hearing well, I tend to touch a lot to obtain others attention.

After speaking with my spouse, I informed him that there may be some truth in what others are saying but feel that it is more of a group shift. Due to my inability to hear in groups of more than four individuals and thus being unable to communicate effectively, I informed my spouse that even though it is disheartening, I feel that the two nervous friends at their luncheon were informing my spouse that we are no longer welcome into their massive clique/circle.

It saddens me because I felt my spouse was hurt more than me. I will accept responsibility for my so-called inappropriate behaviors, which actually occurred quite some time ago, and have mingled with that same circle/group since then on a more appropriate level.

However, I think the startling reality is that my gradual hearing loss and inability to carry on conversation is the problem.

Any suggestions?


Hi Mark,

It sounds like you have insight into some of the reasons why you are losing friends. You mention drinking too much, touching people more often than they are comfortable with, and having problems hearing people, especially when you’re with larger groups.

Since your healing loss has been progressive, I hope your problem has been properly evaluated and diagnosed by an audiologist. Do you use hearing aids or have you learned any adaptive strategies to help you cope with your disability (e.g. sitting with your preferred ear closer to people whom you want to hear)? Is your partner able to key you in to what is going on in a conversation if you miss some of it?

In terms of making people feel uncomfortable with too much touching or excessive drinking, those are under your control. You probably need to pay more attention to make sure you don’t act in ways that make people uncomfortable in your presence.

Hearing loss, especially when untreated, can make someone feel and become more isolated so this is something you need to guard against. Sometimes, people with hearing loss even become suspicious.

These problems don’t only affect you but also affect your spouse. It’s important not only to “inform” him but also to solicit his thoughts so it doesn’t negatively affect your relationship with each other.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (4)

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  1. Rick Biehl U. says:

    In regards to hearing loss and gaining/losing friends due to drinking,
    if the drinking (or other habit, in my case, smoking) is to be the first
    problem dealt with, since not much can be done about my deafness, at least not now, the thing to remember is “Moderation is Key”. If any habit (and all habits are bad habits, no matter) is getting the best of
    you, and you know the difference between a ‘substance abuser’ and a ‘substance user’, you know first off, you will never get over it, that
    your ‘substance(s) of choice are needed by you for life. Secondly, if
    you don’t have too much, and you don’t have too LITTLE, then, just enough, is enough. You will find that you can slow down and stop. Abstention leads to over-doing. And too much of a good thing gets you sick. Moderation is Key.

  2. EH says:

    I am not sure why you wouldn’t take your friends at face value. How far in the past were the drunken incidents? Do you still drink around these people? If you have toned down the drinking, do your friends know it? It’s entirely possible to not want to be around someone who drinks to excess even though they are not ‘hurting’ anyone.

  3. lottie says:

    Hello Mark,
    I really feel for you and guess that you are a really nice person from what you have written.I would like to shove your friends into the middle of next week.
    Years ago when we were younger touchy touchy was ok but how things have changed. It is a wonder we dare even look at some people without a prior appointment!!! Or a court case against us.However maybe you might be raising your voice and touching at the same time and also someone else might already be speaking which is what can be annoying to others. They also might be hard of hearing as well if your friends are your age. So I suggest invite these friends round for a snack or barbi lay off the drink and ply them with plenty and in the nicest way happen to mention that now and then you dont always catch what others are saying. Come out with it and mention it must be an age thing.Laugh although (it is not funny) Make very light of it and apologise for talking too loud. I bet they will feel like S… and say it doesnt matter. Make sure they have a good time and be your merrrrry self. Good luck and I really hope you let us know how you get on. Ps. Can I come to the party!!!! Lottie

  4. Amy F says:

    Hi Mark,
    I’m a 50 year old lesbian. Like Irene says, I hope you’re evaluated by an audiologist and there’s something you can do or a device you can use to improve your hearing.
    Speaking only for myself, I avoid being around drunk people whenever I can. Nobody has to hurt or offend me when they’re drunk, I just want no part of the smell and the behaviors. I wouldn’t want to be around you if the activity involved drinking or if you showed up drunk.
    I feel like you may be making excuses, because it really doesn’t matter what anyone else does, you’re only responsible for your actions.
    I also think you may have misinterpreted what was said to your husband. Perhaps they told him to give you a chance to change your behavior. Why not agree not to drink when you’re out with the group and have your husband pass this along to his friends. If you can’t have a good time unless you drink, you may have a substance abuse problem and checking out AA might be helpful.
    I hope you can get this resolved. Good luck.

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