It’s something lots of people suffer with, but most don’t 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.
This is the ideal time for you to show your love and appreciation for your loved one with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. Discussing hearing loss together is a great way to do this.
Having “the talk”
A person experiencing untreated hearing loss has a 2.4 times more likely risk of developing cognitive conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. A cascade effect that will eventually affect the entire brain will be initiated when the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged. This is referred to as brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” idea in action.
Depression rates amongst people who have hearing loss are nearly twice that of an individual who has healthy hearing. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss progresses, they frequently become stressed and agitated. This can result in the person being self secluded from friends and family. They are also likely to avoid getting involved in the activities they used to enjoy as they sink deeper into a state of depression.
This, as a result, can lead to relationship strain among mother and son, daughter and father, close friends, spouses, and others in this person’s life. Communication problems need to be handled with patients and compassion.
Your loved one may not be ready to inform you they are experiencing hearing loss. They may be afraid or ashamed. They may be in denial. Deciding when to have the talk could take a little detective work.
Here are some outward cues you will need to rely on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Avoiding conversations
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Not hearing important sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Avoiding busy places
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Turning the volume way up on your TV
Plan on having a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.
How to discuss hearing loss
Having this discussion may not be easy. A loved one might become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why discussing hearing loss in an appropriate manner is so important. The steps will be essentially the same but perhaps with some minor modifications based on your specific relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them that you love them unconditionally and value your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is very important to you. You’ve read the studies. You’re aware that neglected hearing loss can lead to a higher risk of dementia and depression. You don’t want your loved one to deal with that.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own health and safety. Your hearing may be damaged by an excessively loud TV. Also, your relationship can be affected, as studies have shown that excessively loud noise can trigger anxiety. Your loved one may not hear you calling for help if you have a fall or someone’s broken into the house. People connect with others through emotion. Simply listing facts won’t be as impactful as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Decide together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing exam. After you make the decision schedule an appointment right away. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for opposition. These could arise anywhere in the process. You know this person. What sort of doubts will they have? Will it be lack of time, or money? Perhaps they don’t see that it’s an issue. They might feel that homemade remedies will be just fine. (“Natural hearing loss cures” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Have your answers prepared ahead of time. Even a bit of practice can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s concerns.
If your partner isn’t willing to talk about their hearing loss, it can be difficult. Developing a plan to tackle potential communication challenges and the effect hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their concerns 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 rewarding life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.