It’s something lots of individuals suffer with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its effect on personal relationships. Both partners can feel frustrated by the misunderstandings that are created by hearing loss.
This is the perfect time for you to express your love and appreciation for your loved one with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. Talking about hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
A person experiencing neglected hearing loss has a 2.4 times more likely risk of developing cognitive disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. When the part of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can affect your whole brain. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. You know how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression numbers amongst people who have hearing loss are almost twice that of a person with healthy hearing. Individuals frequently become stressed and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. The individual could start to isolate themselves from friends and family. They are also likely to stop getting involved in the activities they used to enjoy as they sink deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. It’s essential to be patient and work together to determine solutions to communication challenges.
Your loved one might not be ready to tell you they are experiencing hearing loss. They may feel embarrassment and fear. They may be in denial. You might need to do a bit of detective work to figure out when it’s time to have the talk.
Here are a few external cues you will need to depend on because you can’t hear what others are hearing:
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Avoiding busy places
- Avoiding conversations
- Not hearing significant sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
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?
This talk might not be an easy one to have. A partner in denial might brush it off or become defensive. That’s why approaching hearing loss in the right way is so important. You might need to modify 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 appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: You are concerned about their health. You’ve read the studies. You’re aware that an increased risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to deal with that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. An overly loud television could harm your hearing. In addition, studies show that elevated noise can create anxiety, which may affect your relationship. If you have an intruder in your house or you’ve fallen down, your partner might not hear you yelling for help. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than just listing facts.
- Step 4: Make an appointment to have your hearing tested together. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be ready for opposition. You could encounter these objections at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What will their doubts be? Money? Time? Possibly they don’t see that it’s an issue. Do they believe they can use homemade remedies? (You’re aware that “natural hearing loss cures” don’t actually work and could cause more harm than good.)
Be prepared with your responses. Even a little practice can’t hurt. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s worries.
If your partner isn’t willing to discuss their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Establishing a plan to deal with potential communication problems and the impact hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their worries will be heard and understood. By having this discussion, 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.