Most 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 aggravated by the misunderstandings that are caused by hearing loss.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner isn’t it the perfect opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? Discussing hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have revealed that a person with untreated hearing loss is 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, and that includes Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain responsible for hearing becomes less engaged, it can start a cascade effect that can affect your whole brain. This is referred to as brain atrophy by doctors. You know how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression cases are almost half in individuals who have normal hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. People frequently become anxious and agitated as their hearing loss worsens according to research. This can result in the person being self secluded from friends and family. As they fall deeper into depression, people who have hearing loss are likely to avoid participating 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.
Your loved one may not be ready to inform you they are experiencing hearing loss. They may feel embarrassment and fear. They may be in denial. You may need to do some detective work to determine when it’s time to have the talk.
Since you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on outward clues, such as:
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Repeated misunderstandings
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you don’t hear
- Avoiding conversations
- Avoiding busy places
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Failing to hear alarms, doorbells, and other significant sounds
- Watching TV with the volume very high
Plan to have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved one if you detect any of these symptoms.
What is the best way to discuss hearing loss?
Having this discussion may not be easy. A partner in denial may brush it off or become defensive. 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: Tell them how much you love them without condition and how much you value your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve read the studies. You’re aware that an increased risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want that for your loved one.
- Step 3: You’re also concerned about your own safety and health. Your hearing could be damaged by an overly loud TV. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have revealed that excessively loud noise can cause anxiety. Your loved one might not hear you yelling for help if you’ve fallen or someone’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 just listing facts.
- Step 4: Agree together to make an appointment to get a hearing exam. Do it immediately after making the decision. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be ready for opposition. You could encounter these objections at any time in the process. You know this person. What kind of objections will they have? Money? Time? Maybe they don’t detect that it’s an issue. Do they think 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 beforehand. You may even practice them in the mirror. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
If your spouse isn’t willing to discuss their hearing loss, it can be difficult. Developing a plan to deal with potential communication problems and the effect hearing loss can have on your relationship will help both partners have confidence that their worries will be heard and understood. By doing this, your relationship will grow stronger and your loved one will take steps to live a longer, healthier life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.