It’s something a lot of people suffer 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.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it a great time to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? 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 experience dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A cascade effect that will eventually impact the entire brain will be initiated when the part of your brain in charge of hearing becomes less engaged. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. You know how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression numbers among individuals who have hearing loss are nearly twice that of an individual with healthy hearing. People often become anxious and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. This can lead to the person being self secluded from family and friends. As they sink deeper into depression, people who have hearing loss are likely to stop participating in the activities they once enjoyed.
This, in turn, can result in relationship stress among mother and son, daughter and father, close friends, spouses, and others in this person’s life. Communication issues need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Your loved one may not be ready to let you know they are developing hearing loss. They may feel shame and fear. Denial may have set in. You may need to do a bit of detective work to figure out when it’s time to have the conversation.
Since you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on external cues, like:
- Not hearing significant sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding busy places
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Avoiding conversations
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
Plan on having a heart-to-heart discussion with your loved one if you notice any of these symptoms.
What is the best way to discuss hearing loss?
Having this talk might not be easy. A loved one could become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why it’s important to approach hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. The steps will be essentially the same but maybe with some minor modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them without condition and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: You are concerned about their health. You’ve read through the research. You’re aware that untreated hearing loss can result in a higher risk of depression and dementia. You don’t want your loved one to deal with that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a concern. An overly loud TV could harm your hearing. Also, your relationship can be affected, as studies have revealed that excessively loud noise can trigger anxiety. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner may not hear you yelling for help. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. Simply listing facts won’t be as impactful as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested together. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for objections. You could find these objections at any time in the process. You know this person. What sort of doubts will they have? Money? Time? Perhaps they don’t see that it’s an issue. Do they believe they can use homemade remedies? (“Natural hearing loss cures” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Be ready with your responses. Even a little rehearsal can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s concerns.
If your spouse is unwilling to discuss their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Establishing a plan to tackle potential communication problems 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 having this discussion, you’ll grow closer and get your loved one the help they need to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?