It’s something a lot of people cope with, but most don’t want to talk about – hearing loss and its impact on personal relationships. Hearing loss can create communication hurdles that result in misunderstandings and aggravation for both partners.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner isn’t it a great opportunity to express your love and appreciation for your loved one? Talking about 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, including Alzheimer’s disease. When the region of your brain used for hearing becomes less active, it can start a cascade effect that can affect 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 with hearing loss are almost twice that of an individual who has 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. They are also likely to stop involving themselves in the activities they once enjoyed as they fall deeper into a state of depression.
Relationships between family, friends, and others then become tense. It’s important to be patient and work together to find solutions to communication challenges.
Your loved one may not be ready to tell you they are developing hearing loss. They might be afraid or ashamed. They could be in denial. You might need to do a bit of detective work to determine when it’s time to have the talk.
Because you can’t hear what your partner or parent hears, you’ll need to rely on external clues, like:
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Not hearing important sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or someone calling their name
- Watching TV with the volume very high
- Complaining about ringing, humming, static, or other sounds that you can’t hear
- Starting to notice anxiety and agitation in social situations
- Avoiding busy places
- Avoiding conversations
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?
This discussion might not be an easy one to have. A loved one could 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 might need to alter your language based on your unique relationship, but the strategies will be basically the same.
- Step 1: Inform them how much you love them without condition and how much you appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: You’re concerned about their health. You’ve seen the research. You know that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with neglected hearing loss. You don’t want that for your loved one.
- Step 3: Your own safety and health are also a worry. An excessively loud TV could damage your hearing. Additionally, research shows that increased noise can create anxiety, which might affect your relationship. Your loved one might not hear you yelling 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’s more impactful than simply listing facts.
- Step 4: Decide together to schedule an appointment to get a hearing assessment. After you make the decision make an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t delay.
- Step 5: Be prepared for objections. You could find these oppositions at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What kind of doubts will they have? Money? Time? Doesn’t see an issue? Do they think they can utilize homemade methods? (“Natural hearing loss cures” aren’t effective and can even be harmful.)
Be prepared with your responses. 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.
Talking about hearing loss isn’t easy if your partner isn’t willing to discuss it. 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 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. Growing together – isn’t that what love is all about?