It’s something lots of individuals suffer with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its impact on personal relationships. Both partners can feel aggravated by the misunderstandings that are caused by hearing loss.
This is the ideal time for you to express your love and appreciation for your loved one with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. Discussing 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, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. When the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can affect your entire brain. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” concept in action.
Depression rates are nearly half in individuals who have healthy hearing compared to those who have hearing loss. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss worsens, they often become stressed and agitated. This can result in the person being self isolated from family and friends. They are also likely to stop getting involved in the activities they once enjoyed as they sink deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. Communication problems need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Somebody who is experiencing hearing loss may not be ready to talk about it. They might be afraid or embarrassed. Denial may have set in. You may need to do a bit of detective work to determine when it’s time to have the conversation.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll have to depend on outward clues, such as:
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Avoiding busy places
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Avoiding conversations
- Not hearing vital sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
Plan to have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you observe any of these symptoms.
How to talk about hearing loss
This discussion may not be an easy one to have. A partner in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why it’s crucial to approach hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. The steps will be basically the same but possibly with some minor modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- 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 the studies. You know that neglected hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of depression and dementia. You don’t want your loved one to deal with that.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own safety and health. An overly loud TV could harm your hearing. Additionally, studies show that elevated noise can trigger anxiety, which might 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. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than simply listing facts.
- Step 4: Decide together to make an appointment to get a hearing test. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be ready for objections. These could happen at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What kind of objections will they have? Money? Time? Possibly they don’t see that it’s an issue. They might feel that home remedies will be just fine. (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.)
Have your answers prepared beforehand. You may even practice them in the mirror. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s worries.
If your partner isn’t willing to discuss their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Openly talking about the effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to solidify a plan to deal with any communication issues and ensure that both partners are heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will grow stronger and your partner will take measures to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.