The majority of people don’t want to talk about the effect hearing loss has on relationships, even though it’s an issue many people cope with. Both partners can feel frustrated by the misunderstandings that are caused by hearing loss.
This is the perfect time for you to express your love and appreciation for your loved one with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. Discussing hearing loss together is an ideal way to do this.
Having “the talk”
Studies have revealed that an individual 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 used for hearing becomes less engaged, it can begin a cascade effect that can affect your entire brain. This is referred to as brain atrophy by doctors. You remember how the old saying goes, “use it or lose it”.
Depression rates amongst those who have hearing loss are almost twice that of a person who has healthy hearing. Research shows that as a person’s hearing loss progresses, they frequently become anxious and agitated. This can lead to the person being self isolated from friends and family. As they sink deeper into sadness, people who have hearing loss are likely to avoid engaging 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 may not be ready to let you know they’re developing hearing loss. They may be afraid or embarrassed. Denial might have set in. You may need to do a bit of detective work to figure out when it’s time to have the talk.
Here are some external cues you will need to rely on because you can’t hear what other people are hearing:
- Complaining about buzzing, humming, static, or other noises that you can’t hear
- Avoiding busy places
- Agitation or anxiety in social settings that you haven’t previously observed
- Watching TV with the volume extremely high
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Avoiding conversations
- School, work, and hobbies are starting to become difficult
- Not hearing vital sounds, such as the doorbell, dryer buzzer, or somebody calling their name
Watch for these common symptoms and plan to have a heart-to-heart chat with your loved one.
What is the best way to discuss hearing loss?
Having this discussion might not be easy. A loved one may become defensive and brush it off if they’re in denial. That’s why it’s crucial to discuss hearing loss in a sensitive and appropriate way. You might 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 without condition and appreciate your relationship.
- Step 2: The state of their health is important to you. You’ve read through the studies. You know that a higher risk of depression and dementia comes along with untreated hearing loss. You don’t want your loved one to go through that.
- Step 3: You’re also worried about your own health and safety. An excessively loud TV could damage your hearing. Additionally, research shows that increased noise can trigger anxiety, which might affect your relationship. Your loved one may not hear you yelling for help if you have a fall or somebody’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 will have more impact than merely listing facts.
- Step 4: Schedule an appointment to get a hearing test together. After you make the decision schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Don’t wait.
- Step 5: There may be some opposition so be prepared. You could encounter these objections at any time in the process. This is a person you know well. What sort of doubts will they have? Will it be lack of time, or money? Maybe they don’t detect that it’s an issue. They might feel that home remedies will be good enough. (You’re aware that “natural hearing loss cures” don’t really work and could cause more harm than good.)
Be ready with your answers. Even a bit of rehearsal can’t hurt. They don’t have to match those listed above word-for-word, but they should address your loved one’s concerns.
Discussing hearing loss isn’t easy if your significant other doesn’t want to discuss it. Openly discussing the effect of hearing loss on your relationship can help to establish a plan to address any communication challenges and make sure that both partners are heard and understood. By having this conversation, 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.