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 show 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 revealed that a person with neglected hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain used for hearing becomes less active, it can begin a cascade effect that can affect your whole brain. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression rates among individuals with hearing loss are almost twice that of an individual with healthy hearing. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss worsens, they often become anxious and agitated. The individual may start to isolate themselves from friends and family. As they fall deeper into depression, people who have hearing loss are likely to stop taking part in the activities they once enjoyed.
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 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 might be afraid or embarrassed. Denial may have set in. Deciding when to have the talk could take a little detective work.
Here are a few outward clues you will need to depend on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding conversations
- Not hearing vital sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Avoiding busy places
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other noises that you don’t hear
Look for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one.
What is the best way to talk about hearing loss?
This discussion may not be an easy one to have. A loved one might 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 perhaps with some minor modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them how much you love them unconditionally and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: You are concerned about their health. You’ve read through the research. You know that neglected hearing loss can lead to a higher chance of depression and dementia. You don’t want your loved one to go through that.
- Step 3: You’re also worried about your own safety and health. An excessively loud TV could harm your hearing. Additionally, research shows that elevated noise can cause anxiety, which may affect your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you yelling for help if you’ve fallen or somebody’s broken into the house. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. Merely listing facts won’t be as impactful as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Decide together to make an appointment to get a hearing test. After you make the decision schedule an appointment right away. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be ready for opposition. You could encounter these objections at any time in the process. You know this person. What will their doubts be? Money? Time? 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 actually work and could cause more harm than good.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a little practice can’t hurt. These responses need to address your loved one’s concerns but they don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word
Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your partner isn’t willing to discuss it. 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 worries will be 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 rewarding life. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?