Most people don’t want to talk about the impact hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s an issue many people deal with. 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 the perfect time to show your love and appreciation for your loved one? Discussing hearing loss together is a great way to do this.
Having “the talk”
A person experiencing neglected hearing loss has a 2.4 times more likely chance of developing cognitive conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. A cascade effect that will ultimately affect the entire brain will be caused when the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” idea in action.
Depression rates among those who have hearing loss are nearly twice that of an individual with healthy hearing. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss progresses, they frequently become stressed and agitated. This can lead to the person being self isolated 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. Communication issues need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Someone who is developing hearing loss may not be ready to discuss it. They may feel shame and fear. Denial might have set in. Deciding when to have the conversation could take a bit of detective work.
Here are some outward cues you will need to rely on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other significant sounds
- Avoiding busy places
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Avoiding conversations
- Watching television with the volume very high
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
Plan to have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you notice any of these symptoms.
How to discuss hearing loss
This discussion may 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. The steps will be pretty much the same but maybe with some slight modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them that you love them unconditionally and appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is very important to you. 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 go through that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. Your hearing could be harmed by an overly loud TV. Additionally, research shows that increased noise can create anxiety, which may impact your relationship. If you have a burglar in your house or you’ve taken a fall, your partner might not hear you calling for help. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. Merely listing facts won’t have as much impact as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Schedule an appointment to get a hearing test together. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be ready for objections. These could arise at any time in the process. You know this person. What will their objections be? Will it be lack of time, or money? Perhaps they don’t detect that it’s an issue. They may feel that homemade remedies will be good enough. (You recognize “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could do more harm than good.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. You might even rehearse them in the mirror. These answers need to address your loved one’s Worries but they don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word
If your partner isn’t willing 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. In this way, your relationship will get stronger and your partner will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.