Most individuals don’t want to talk about the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s an issue many people deal with. Hearing loss can create communication obstacles that lead to misunderstandings and frustration for both partners.
This is the perfect time for you to show your love and appreciation for your loved one with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. Talking about hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have found that a person with neglected hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. When the part of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can begin a cascade effect that can affect your whole brain. Doctors call this brain atrophy. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression numbers amongst people with hearing loss are almost twice that of a person who has healthy hearing. Individuals often become anxious and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. The person may start to separate themselves from friends and family. As they sink deeper into sadness, people with hearing loss are likely to avoid participating in the activities they once enjoyed.
This, in turn, can lead to relationship stress among mother and son, father and daughter, close friends, spouses, and other people in this person’s life. Communication issues need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Your loved one might not be ready to inform you they are experiencing hearing loss. They might be afraid or ashamed. They may be in denial. Deciding when to have the conversation may take a bit of detective work.
Here are some external cues you will have to depend on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Failing to hear alerts, doorbells, and other important sounds
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Avoiding busy places
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding conversations
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you don’t hear
Look for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
How to discuss hearing loss
Having this conversation might not be easy. A spouse in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why approaching hearing loss in an appropriate manner is so relevant. You might need to modify your language based on your unique relationship, but the steps will be more or less the same.
- Step 1: Let them know that you love them without condition and value your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is very important to you. You’ve read through the studies. You’re aware that an increased risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to go through that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a concern. Your hearing could be harmed by an excessively loud TV. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have shown that overly loud noise can cause anxiety. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner may not hear you yelling for help. Emotion is a strong way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than just listing facts.
- Step 4: Make an appointment to get a hearing test together. After you make the decision make an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: There might be some objections so be prepared. These could occur anywhere in the process. This is a person you know well. What sort of doubts will they have? Money? Time? Doesn’t see an issue? They may feel that homemade remedies will be good enough. (You’re aware that “natural hearing loss cures” don’t actually work and could do more harm than good.)
Be ready with your answers. Even a little practice can’t hurt. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
If your partner is unwilling to discuss their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Developing a plan to tackle potential communication challenges and the impact hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their worries will be heard and understood. By having this discussion, you’ll grow closer and get your loved one the help they need to live a longer, healthier, more rewarding life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.