It’s something lots of people cope with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its effect on personal relationships. Hearing loss can create communication hurdles that lead to misunderstandings and aggravation for both partners.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it a great time to show your love and appreciation for your loved one? Talking about hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have found that an individual with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to experience dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A cascade effect that will eventually affect the whole brain will be caused when the region of your brain in charge of hearing becomes less active. This is referred to as brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression cases are nearly half in people who have normal hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. Individuals often become stressed and agitated as their hearing loss worsens according to research. This can lead to the person being self isolated from family and friends. As they fall deeper into sadness, people who have hearing loss are likely to stop participating in the activities they once enjoyed.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. It’s important to be patient and work together to find solutions to communication problems.
Your loved one may not be ready to inform you they are experiencing hearing loss. They might feel embarrassment and fear. They could be in denial. Deciding when to have the conversation may take a bit of detective work.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on outward cues, such as:
- Avoiding busy places
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Avoiding conversations
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Not hearing significant sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Repeated misunderstandings
Look for these prevalent symptoms and plan on having a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one.
How to talk about hearing loss
This discussion may not be an easy one to have. A spouse in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why approaching hearing loss in the right way is so crucial. The steps will be pretty much the same but perhaps with some minor modifications based on your particular relationship situation.
- Step 1: Let them know that you love them unconditionally and value your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re worried about their health. You’ve read the studies. You’re aware that untreated hearing loss can lead to an increased chance of depression and dementia. That’s not what you want for your loved one.
- Step 3: You’re also worried about your own health and safety. Your hearing could be damaged by an overly loud TV. In addition, research shows that elevated noise can cause anxiety, which may affect your relationship. Your loved one might not hear you yelling for help if you have a fall or somebody’s broken into the house. People connect with others through emotion. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it’s more impactful than just listing facts.
- Step 4: Decide together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing assessment. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: There may be some objections so be ready. These could occur anywhere in the process. You know this person. What kind of doubts will they have? Money? Time? Maybe they don’t detect that it’s an issue. Do they think they can use do-it-yourself remedies? (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.)
Have your answers prepared ahead of time. Even a bit of rehearsal can’t hurt. These answers need to address your loved one’s concerns but they don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word
Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your significant other isn’t willing to talk about it. Establishing a plan to deal with potential communication challenges and the effect hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their worries will be heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will get stronger and your partner will take measures to live a longer, healthier life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?