The majority of people don’t want to discuss the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s a problem many people deal with. Hearing loss can create communication hurdles that lead to misunderstandings and aggravation for both partners.
This is the perfect 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 neglected hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to experience dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A cascade effect that will inevitably affect the whole brain will be caused when the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less active. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. You remember how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression rates amongst those with hearing loss are almost twice that of a person who has healthy hearing. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they frequently become anxious and agitated. This can result in the person being self isolated from friends and family. They are also likely to stop getting involved in the activities they once enjoyed as they fall deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. It’s important to be patient and work together to find solutions to communication difficulties.
Someone who is experiencing hearing loss may not be ready to discuss it. They might feel shame and fear. They could be in denial. Deciding when to have the talk could take a little detective work.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll have to depend on outward clues, like:
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Avoiding busy places
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
- Not hearing vital sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Avoiding conversations
Look for these common symptoms and plan on having a heart-to-heart chat with your loved one.
How to discuss hearing loss
This talk may not be an easy one to have. A partner in denial might brush it off or become defensive. That’s why discussing hearing loss in the right way is so relevant. The steps will be pretty much the same but perhaps with some minor alterations based on your particular relationship situation.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them without condition and how much you appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re concerned about their health. You’ve read the studies. You know that untreated hearing loss can result in an increased chance of depression and dementia. You don’t want that for your loved one.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a concern. An excessively loud television could harm your hearing. Also, your relationship can be affected, as studies have shown that excessively loud noise can trigger anxiety. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve fallen down, your partner may not hear you calling for help. Emotion is a strong way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it’s more impactful than merely listing facts.
- Step 4: Decide together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing exam. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for objections. These could happen at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What will their doubts be? Money? Time? Doesn’t notice a problem? They may feel that home remedies will be good enough. (“Natural hearing loss cures” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Be ready with your answers. Even a bit of practice can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
Discussing hearing loss isn’t easy if your partner doesn’t want to discuss it. Openly discussing the effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to deal with any communication issues and make sure that both partners are heard and understood. By having this talk, you’ll grow closer and get your partner the help they need to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.