Does Hearing Loss Change or Affect Your Personality?

Dr. Terry Portis a counseling psychologist with 20 years of experience as an educator, education and non-profit executive, speaker and writer. His interests include history, leadership, technology, disabilities, family and faith. His wife Denise has a profound hearing loss and has a cochlear implant. They have two teenage children and have lived in Maryland for six years. They moved to Maryland from North Carolina, and Terry is still a huge UNC basketball fan, even when they are having a bad year (which almost never happens). He is a co-writes for Hearing Elmo, but has his own blog as well.

Terry with our ancient Pom, Ebony at Harpers Ferry 10/19/08

Does Hearing Loss Affect or Change Your Personality?

There are many ways to describe personality and to use the study of personality to help us understand people’s tendencies when faced with opportunities and challenges. Each person is a unique individual, and we must be cautious not to put people into neat little boxes. However, understanding how people tend to operate in comfort zones will help us understand ourselves and the people around us. In fact, personality assessment and skills assessment are the two primary ways businesses and organizations are organizing work teams and project leaders. So, personality theory is again on the cutting edge of management and human resources.

One of the most basic and easy to understand models of personality identifies 4 major personality types. Almost everyone has a “primary” personality type, but most people are a “blend.” If a person has questions about their own personality type, a short survey of family and friends usually provides the needed information.

The Choleric personality is an extrovert, “the doer”, and optimistic. They feel like they must correct wrongs and injustices, and also have a compulsive need for change. Their strengths include: goal oriented, sees the whole picture, organizes well (in a big picture sense, not details), thrives on opposition, excels in emergencies, and focuses on productivity. Their potential problem areas: can be compulsive workers who can’t relax, has an inner need to be in control, may run over people to get the job done, frequently pressures other people who are not moving at a “full-steam ahead” pace, and sometimes look down on others who are not choleric or who have different leadership styles.

When hearing loss occurs, the Choleric will “attack” the problem and will go to get help right away. However, once fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, they may never interact with other hard of hearing people again. To them, the challenge has been addressed, and the various tasks of this “project” have been completed. Those who DO get involved with hearing loss issues, usually become major advocates and leaders. Hearing loss does not usually affect the choleric unless it negatively affects their job. This will damage their ego and self-esteem, and they may retreat and give up. For most Cholerics, their “job” and vocation is WHO they are. If hearing loss affects their ability to do their job, they can be extremely traumatized.

The Phlegmatic personality is an introvert, “the watcher”, and pessimistic. They want peace at any price. They love stability, and people have trouble finding something bad to say about them. Why? They hate conflict and rarely “cross swords” with anyone else! Their strengths are: competent and steady, peaceable and agreeable, mediates problems, avoids conflicts, good under pressure, and finds the easy way. Their potential problem areas: can be resistant to change, may have a problem with procrastination, do not like to communicate their feelings, often have difficulty making decisions, and may appear lazy or unmotivated.

When a Phlegmatic has a hearing loss, they may “bluff” for some time. “I don’t have a hearing loss”, they may say. When the hearing loss gets to where they cannot “bluff” any longer, then well-meaning family members or friends can finally talk them into going to get help. They may attend meetings and advocacy groups, but usually because family members with a different personality type want them too! To avoid conflict, they get involved in these groups to keep the peace. They will eventually be involved in many “behind the scenes” activities. They will more quickly recognize another phlegmatic with hearing difficulties. A phlegmatic without support during their hearing loss crisis, may be the most prone to isolate themselves. They may quit their jobs, church, social groups and LIFE.

The Sanguine personality is an extrovert, “the talker”, and optimistic. Their relationships are more important than any of the other personalities. Even at work, their co-workers are more important than the work itself. They are usually curious and expressive. Their strengths include: ready to volunteer, love to think up new activities, look great on the surface, creative and colorful, energetic and enthusiastic, can inspire others to join in, and they can be very charming. The potential problem areas: can talk too much, are sometimes good at starting things, but weak in finishing them, avoid negative situations even if they should work through it, can barge ahead without counting the costs, and are quick to give simplistic answers to every question.

When hearing loss occurs in a Sanguine personality, they will usually get help right away because they cannot communicate well with people. Communication and relationship are everything to them! They many times will be involved with hearing loss issues and groups because they love to interact. They can be negatively affected by hearing loss if it seems to hurt their relationships… divorce or loss of a partner who cannot accept the hearing loss, or children and/or parents who give negative feedback about their new communication “issues”. This can devastate a Sanguine and send them into depression, which rarely happens to this personality type.

The Melancholic personality is an introvert, “the thinker”, and pessimistic. They are content to stay in the background, love orderliness and organization, and are analytical. Their strengths are: detail conscious, schedule oriented, persistent and thorough, economical, likes charts, graphs and lists. Their potential problem areas are: can spend too much time planning, expect perfection from themselves and others, often have low self-esteem, can be gloomy, and may be prone to look for trouble.

When a Melancholic experiences hearing loss they are the most likely to be depressed and extremely emotional about it. If friends and family members can “rally” them out of their “blues”, they will usually seek help and then become very compassionate advocates for hearing loss issues. They also enjoy behind the scenes work and are great “listeners” to someone new to hearing loss.

Hearing loss does affect all personalities differently. Although equally traumatic, different personalities may adjust more quickly and readily to coping mechanisms and technology. Personalities do not change, but strengths that may not have been utilized before hearing loss may manifest themselves. Also, weaknesses that may not have been as apparent and more in control before hearing loss, may become real problem areas for the person after hearing loss. It was also noted that adjustments can be made, but then additional hearing loss might occur. Some personality types might simply adjust AGAIN, while others may have a much tougher time “rallying”.

Dr. Terry D. Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal