It’s something a lot of people cope with, but few want to talk about – hearing loss and its impact on personal relationships. Hearing loss can cause communication obstacles that lead to misunderstandings and aggravation for both partners.
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. A great way to do this is to talk to your loved one 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 like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease according to some studies. When the part of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. This is called brain atrophy by doctors. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle in action.
Depression numbers among individuals who have hearing loss are almost double that of a person who has healthy hearing. Individuals often become stressed and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. The individual could start to seclude themselves from family and friends. They are also likely to avoid getting involved in the activities they used to enjoy as they fall deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become tense. It’s essential to be patient and work together to determine solutions to communication problems.
Someone who is developing hearing loss may not be ready to talk about it. They may feel shame and fear. They could be in denial. You may need to do a bit of detective work to determine when it’s time to have the talk.
Here are some external clues you will have to depend on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding busy places
- Cranking the volume way up on your TV
- Not hearing significant sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Avoiding conversations
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
Look for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
How to discuss hearing loss
Having this discussion might not be easy. A spouse in denial may brush it off or become defensive. That’s why approaching hearing loss in the right way is so crucial. The steps will be essentially the same but perhaps with some small modifications based on your particular relationship situation.
- Step 1: Let them know that you love them without condition and appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re concerned about their health. You’ve read through the studies. You know that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. That’s not what you want for your loved one.
- Step 3: You’re also worried about your own safety and health. An excessively loud TV could harm your hearing. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have revealed that excessively loud noise can cause anxiety. Your loved one may not hear you yelling for help if you’ve fallen or somebody’s broken into the house. People connect with others through emotion. If you can paint an emotional picture of the what-ifs, it will have more impact than simply listing facts.
- Step 4: Agree together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing test. Do it right away after making the decision. Don’t hold off.
- Step 5: Be ready for opposition. These could happen anywhere in the process. This is a person you know well. What kind of objections will they have? Will it be lack of time, or money? Doesn’t notice a problem? Do they believe they can use do-it-yourself remedies? (You know “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. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
If your spouse is unwilling to talk about their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Openly talking about the impact of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to deal with any communication challenges and make sure that both partners are heard and understood. In this way, your relationship will get stronger and your partner will take measures to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.