Most individuals don’t want to talk about the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s a problem many people cope with. Hearing loss can cause communication barriers that result in misunderstandings and aggravation for both partners.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner isn’t it a great opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? A wonderful way to do this is to talk to your loved one about your hearing loss.
Having “the talk”
A person with untreated hearing loss has a 2.4 times more likely risk of developing cognitive conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. A cascade effect that will inevitably affect the whole brain will be initiated when the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less active. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” concept in action.
Depression cases are nearly half in people who have normal hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they frequently become anxious and agitated. The person may start to isolate themselves from family and friends. As they fall deeper into depression, people with hearing loss are likely to stop engaging 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 others in this person’s life. Communication problems need to be handled with patients and compassion.
Your loved one might not be ready to let you know they’re developing hearing loss. They may feel shame and fear. Denial may have set in. Deciding when to have the conversation could take a bit of detective work.
Here are some outward cues you will have to depend on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Avoiding busy places
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other important sounds
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Avoiding conversations
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
Watch for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart chat with your loved one.
How to discuss hearing loss
This discussion may not be an easy one to have. A loved one could become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why discussing hearing loss in an appropriate manner is so crucial. You might need to modify your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be basically the same.
- Step 1: Let them know that you love them unconditionally and value your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re worried about their health. You’ve seen the research. You know that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to experience that.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own health and safety. An overly loud television could harm your hearing. Additionally, studies show that increased noise can trigger anxiety, which might impact your relationship. If you have an intruder in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner might not hear you calling for help. Emotion is a strong way to connect with others. Simply listing facts won’t be as impactful as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Agree together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing assessment. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: Be prepared for opposition. These could occur anywhere in the process. This is a person you know well. What kind of objections will they have? Will it be lack of time, or money? Possibly they don’t detect that it’s a problem. Do they think they can use do-it-yourself remedies? (“Natural hearing loss remedies” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a bit of rehearsal can’t hurt. These responses need to address your loved one’s concerns but they don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word
If your spouse isn’t willing to talk about their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Openly discussing the impact of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to deal with any communication challenges and ensure that both partners are heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will get stronger and your partner will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.