It’s something lots of individuals cope with, but most don’t want to talk about – hearing loss and its impact on personal relationships. Hearing loss can cause communication hurdles 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? Talking about hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have found that an individual with untreated 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 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” idea in action.
Depression numbers amongst individuals who have hearing loss are nearly twice that of an individual who has healthy hearing. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they often become anxious and agitated. The individual could begin to separate themselves from friends and family. They are also likely to avoid involving themselves in the activities they used to enjoy as they sink deeper into a state of depression.
This, in turn, can lead to relationship stress among mother and son, daughter and father, close friends, spouses, and other people 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 might feel embarrassment and fear. They could be in denial. You might need to do some detective work to figure out when it’s time to have the conversation.
Here are a few external clues you will have to rely on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Avoiding busy places
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Not hearing important sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Avoiding conversations
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you don’t hear
Plan on having a heart-to-heart discussion with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.
How to discuss hearing loss
This discussion may not be an easy one to have. A loved one may become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why it’s crucial to approach hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. The steps will be basically the same but maybe with some small alterations based on your particular relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them that you love them without condition and value your relationship.
- Step 2: You are concerned about their health. You’ve seen the research. You’re aware that untreated hearing loss can lead to an increased chance of depression and dementia. You don’t want that for your loved one.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own safety and health. Your hearing could be damaged by an excessively loud TV. Also, your relationship can be affected, as studies have revealed that overly loud noise can trigger anxiety. If you have an intruder in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner might not hear you calling for help. People connect with others through emotion. Simply 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 immediately after making the decision. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: There might be some opposition so be ready. You could encounter these oppositions at any time in the process. You know this person. What sort of objections will they have? Money? Time? Perhaps they don’t detect that it’s a problem. They may feel that home remedies will be just fine. (“Natural hearing loss cures” are not effective and can even be harmful.)
Have your responses prepared ahead of time. You may even practice them in the mirror. 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 partner isn’t willing to talk about their hearing loss, it can be difficult. 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 having this talk, 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?