It’s something a lot of individuals cope with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its effect on personal relationships. Hearing loss can create communication barriers that lead to misunderstandings and frustration for both partners.
This is the perfect time for you to show 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 experiencing cognitive conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. A cascade effect that will ultimately impact the entire brain will be initiated when the region of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less active. Doctors refer to this as brain atrophy. You know how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression rates amongst individuals with hearing loss are nearly double that of an individual with healthy hearing. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss worsens, they often become stressed and agitated. This can result in the person being self secluded from family and friends. As they sink deeper into depression, people with hearing loss are likely to stop engaging in the activities they once enjoyed.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become tense. It’s important to be patient and work together to determine solutions to communication challenges.
Your loved one may not be ready to tell you they’re experiencing hearing loss. They might be afraid or embarrassed. Denial may have set in. Deciding when to have the conversation could take a little detective work.
Since you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll need to depend on external clues, such as:
- Not hearing significant sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Avoiding busy places
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Avoiding conversations
- Repeated misunderstandings
Watch for these prevalent symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart chat with your loved one.
What is the best way to talk about hearing loss?
This discussion might not be an easy one to have. A loved one could become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why it’s essential to approach hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. The steps will be essentially the same but possibly with some slight alterations based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them how much you love them without condition and how much you appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re concerned about their health. You’ve seen the research. You know that an increased risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to experience that.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own health and safety. An excessively loud television could harm your hearing. Additionally, research shows that elevated noise can cause anxiety, which might impact your relationship. Your loved one might not hear you calling for help if you’ve fallen or someone’s broken into the house. Emotion is a strong way to connect with others. Simply listing facts won’t have as much impact as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Decide together to make an appointment to get a hearing exam. After you make the decision make an appointment right away. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: There may be some objections so be prepared. You could find these objections at any time in the process. You know this person. What will their doubts be? Will it be lack of time, or money? Doesn’t notice an issue? Do they believe they can use homemade remedies? (You recognize “natural hearing loss cures” don’t actually work and could do more harm than good.)
Have your answers prepared ahead of time. You might even practice them in the mirror. These answers need to address your loved one’s concerns but they don’t have 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 effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to deal with any communication issues 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. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.