It’s something a lot of individuals cope with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its effect on personal relationships. Both partners can feel aggravated by the misunderstandings that are created by hearing loss.
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 a great way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have found that a person with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged, it can begin a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression numbers amongst those who have hearing loss are nearly double that of an individual who has healthy hearing. Individuals frequently become stressed and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. The individual could begin to isolate themselves from family and friends. As they fall deeper into depression, people who have hearing loss are likely to stop engaging 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 determine solutions to communication problems.
Someone who is experiencing hearing loss might not be ready to discuss it. They might feel embarrassment and fear. They could be in denial. You may need to do some detective work to determine when it’s time to have the talk.
Here are some outward cues you will need to rely on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Watching TV with the volume very high
- Avoiding busy places
- Avoiding conversations
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other important sounds
- Repeated misunderstandings
Look for these common symptoms and plan on having a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
What is the best way to talk about hearing loss?
This discussion might 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 it’s essential to discuss hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. You may need to modify your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be basically the same.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them unconditionally and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re worried about their health. You’ve seen the research. You know that an increased risk of depression and dementia comes along with untreated hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to experience that.
- Step 3: You’re also worried about your own safety and health. Your hearing may be damaged by an overly loud TV. In addition, studies show that elevated noise can trigger anxiety, which might affect your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you calling for help if you’ve fallen or someone’s broken into the house. People connect with others through emotion. Merely listing facts won’t have as much impact as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested together. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: There may be some opposition so be prepared. These could occur at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What will their objections be? Will it be lack of time, or money? Doesn’t see an issue? Do they think they can utilize do-it-yourself remedies? (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t actually work and could do more harm than good.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a little practice can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s worries.
If your spouse isn’t willing to talk about their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Establishing a plan to deal with potential communication challenges and the impact hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their concerns will be heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will grow stronger and your partner will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.