Cropped shot of two unrecognizable people holding hands discussing hearing loss with compassion.

The majority of people don’t want to discuss the impact hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s an issue many people deal with. Both partners can feel frustrated by the misunderstandings that are created by hearing loss.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it the perfect opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? A wonderful way to do this is to have a discussion about your hearing loss.

Having “the talk”

A person experiencing neglected hearing loss has a 2.4 times more likely chance of experiencing cognitive disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. When the part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. You remember how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.

Depression rates among individuals who have hearing loss are nearly twice that of an individual with healthy hearing. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they often become stressed and agitated. This can result in the person being self secluded from friends and family. As they fall deeper into sadness, people with hearing loss are likely to stop taking part in the activities they once enjoyed.

Relationships between family, friends, and others then become strained. It’s important to be patient and work together to determine solutions to communication challenges.

Mystery solved

Someone who is experiencing hearing loss may not be ready to discuss it. They may feel embarrassment and fear. Denial might have set in. You might need to do some detective work to figure out when it’s time to have the conversation.

Because you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll need to depend on external cues, such as:

  • Failing to hear alerts, doorbells, and other significant sounds
  • Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you don’t hear
  • Repeated misunderstandings
  • Turning the volume way up on your TV
  • Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
  • Avoiding busy places
  • Avoiding conversations
  • Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed

Plan on having a heart-to-heart discussion with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.

What is the best way to discuss hearing loss?

Having this discussion might not be easy. A spouse in denial might brush it off or become defensive. That’s why it’s important to discuss hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. You might need to alter your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be basically the same.

  • Step 1: Let them know that you love them unconditionally and value your relationship.
  • Step 2: You are concerned about their health. You’ve read through 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 deal with that.
  • Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own safety and health. Your hearing may be harmed by an excessively loud TV. Additionally, research shows that increased noise can cause anxiety, which may affect your relationship. Your loved one might not hear you calling for help if you have a fall or someone’s broken into the house. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than just listing facts.
  • Step 4: Agree together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing assessment. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t delay.
  • Step 5: There may be some opposition so be prepared. These could happen anywhere in the process. You know this person. What will their doubts be? Money? Time? Doesn’t notice an issue? Do they believe they can use homemade remedies? (You know “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.)

Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a little rehearsal can’t hurt. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s concerns.

Relationship growth

Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your partner isn’t willing to talk about it. Openly talking about the effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to address any communication issues and make sure that both partners are 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.

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