It’s something a lot of individuals cope 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 created by hearing loss.
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”
Studies have revealed that an individual with neglected hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to experience dementia, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can affect your whole brain. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” idea in action.
Depression rates among people who have hearing loss are almost twice that of a person who has healthy hearing. Individuals often become anxious and agitated as their hearing loss worsens according to research. The person may begin to separate themselves from friends and family. They are also likely to stop involving themselves 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.
Someone who is experiencing hearing loss might not be ready to discuss it. They may feel embarrassment and fear. Denial may have set in. You might need to do some 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 need to depend on external clues, like:
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Not hearing significant sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Avoiding conversations
- Avoiding busy places
Plan on having a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you notice any of these symptoms.
What is the best way to discuss hearing loss?
This discussion might 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 crucial. You might need to alter your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be more or less the same.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them without condition and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: You are worried about their health. You’ve read through the research. You’re aware that neglected hearing loss can result in a higher risk of dementia and depression. That’s not what you want for your loved one.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a concern. An overly loud television could harm your hearing. In addition, research shows that increased noise can cause anxiety, which may affect your relationship. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner might not hear you yelling for help. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. Simply listing facts won’t have as much impact as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Agree together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing exam. After you make the decision schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for opposition. These could arise anywhere in the process. You know this person. What will their objections be? Will it be lack of time, or money? Doesn’t see a problem? Do they think they can use homemade remedies? (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could do more harm than good.)
Be prepared with your responses. You might even rehearse them in the mirror. These answers need to address your loved one’s concerns but they don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word
If your partner isn’t willing to discuss their hearing loss, it can be difficult. Developing 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.