Most individuals don’t want to discuss the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s a problem many people deal with. Hearing loss can cause communication barriers that lead to misunderstandings and frustration for both partners.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner isn’t it the perfect opportunity to show your love and appreciation for your loved one? Discussing hearing loss together is a great way to do this.
Having “the talk”
A person with untreated 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 region of your brain used for hearing becomes less active, it can start a cascade effect that can affect 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 people who have healthy hearing compared to people who have hearing loss. Studies have shown that as a person’s hearing loss gets worse, they often become anxious and agitated. The individual could begin to seclude themselves from family and friends. As they sink deeper into sadness, people who have hearing loss are likely to stop taking part in the activities they once enjoyed.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become tense. Communication problems need to be managed with patients and compassion.
Your loved one might not be ready to tell you they are developing hearing loss. They might feel embarrassment and fear. Denial might have set in. Deciding when to have the conversation could take a little detective work.
Since you can’t hear what your spouse or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on outward cues, like:
- Failing to hear alerts, doorbells, and other important sounds
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Sudden difficulty with work, hobbies, or school
- Watching TV with the volume really high
- Avoiding conversations
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding busy places
Plan on having a heart-to-heart discussion with your loved one if you observe any of these symptoms.
How to discuss hearing loss
Having this conversation might not be easy. A spouse 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. The steps will be essentially the same but perhaps with some slight modifications based on your particular relationship situation.
- Step 1: Tell them how much you love them unconditionally and how much you appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve seen the research. You know that untreated hearing loss can lead to a higher risk of dementia and depression. You don’t want your loved one to go through that.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. Your hearing could be harmed by an overly loud TV. Also, your relationship can be impacted, as studies have revealed that overly loud noise can cause anxiety. Your loved one might not hear you yelling for help if you’ve fallen or somebody’s broken into the house. Emotion is a powerful way to connect with others. Merely listing facts won’t be as impactful as painting an emotional picture.
- Step 4: Decide together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing test. After you make the decision schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: Be prepared for objections. You could find these objections at any time in the process. You know this person. What kind of objections will they have? Money? Time? Doesn’t notice an issue? Do they believe they can use homemade methods? (“Natural hearing loss cures” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Have your responses prepared beforehand. Even a bit of practice can’t hurt. They don’t need to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s worries.
Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your partner doesn’t want to discuss it. Developing a plan to deal with potential communication challenges and the impact 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 fulfilling life. And relationships are, after all, about growing together.