It’s something a lot of individuals cope with, but most don’t want to talk about – hearing loss and its effect on personal relationships. 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 a great time to express 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 found that a person with neglected hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the part of your brain used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can begin a cascade effect that can impact your entire brain. Doctors call this brain atrophy. It’s the “use it or lose it” concept in action.
Depression cases are nearly half in individuals who have normal hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. People often become stressed and agitated as their hearing loss progresses according to research. This can result in the person being self secluded from family and friends. As they fall deeper into depression, people with hearing loss are likely to avoid engaging in the activities they once enjoyed.
This, in turn, can result in relationship strain among mother and son, father and daughter, close friends, spouses, and other people in this person’s life. Communication problems need to be handled with patients and compassion.
Someone who is developing hearing loss may not be ready to discuss it. They may be afraid or embarrassed. Denial may have set in. Deciding when to have the talk could take a bit of detective work.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on external cues, like:
- Not hearing significant sounds, like the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Avoiding busy places
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Watching TV with the volume really high
- Avoiding conversations
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other noises that you don’t hear
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
Plan on having a heart-to-heart discussion with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.
How to discuss 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. You may need to modify your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be more or less the same.
- Step 1: Let them know that you love them unconditionally and value your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is very important to you. You’ve seen the research. You’re aware that untreated hearing loss can result in a higher risk of depression and dementia. You don’t want your loved one to experience that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. Your hearing could be harmed by an excessively loud TV. In addition, research shows that increased noise can create anxiety, which might affect your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you yelling for help if you have a fall 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: Agree together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing exam. After you make the decision make an appointment right away. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for opposition. You could encounter these oppositions at any time in the process. You know this person. What will their doubts be? Money? Time? Possibly they don’t detect that it’s an issue. Do they think they can use homemade remedies? (“Natural hearing loss remedies” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a little practice can’t hurt. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should concentrate on your loved one’s worries.
If your spouse isn’t willing to talk about their hearing loss, it can be challenging. Openly discussing the impact of hearing loss on your relationship can help to solidify a plan to deal with any communication issues and make sure 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.
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