Hearing loss and your relationship
You’ve been together through ten presidential campaigns, three sets of the terrible twos, the rise and fall (and rise again) of your stock market savings, and a severe case of empty-nest syndrome. Could untreated hearing loss be the obstacle that finally comes between you?
According to hearing healthcare professionals, yes. And, while it may not sound like a very romantic Valentine’s Day gift, making a couple’s appointment to see a hearing healthcare professional for a hearing evaluation may just be the loveliest thing you can do for your relationship this year.
How hearing loss causes relationship issues
Researchers have known for years that untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression. In the case of married couples where one is hard of hearing, both partners suffer. Since communication is a key ingredient to a successful relationship, anything that interferes with that process is a threat.
Suddenly you’re arguing about the volume of the television and whether or not one of you is mumbling. It’s no longer fun to go out to eat with friends or attend parties because one of you can’t hear well enough to participate in the conversation. And, when the grandkids call on the telephone, one of you has to repeat the entire conversation.
In a 2007 survey by Cochlear Americas, participants said the relationship that was most likely to suffer because of hearing loss was the one with their romantic partner. Respondents also expressed frustration (54 percent), annoyance (32 percent), sadness (23 percent), and said they felt ignored (18 percent) when describing conversations they’ve had with hard of hearing partners.
How hearing loss treatment benefits a relationship
For some reason, admitting you may not be hearing as well as you used to is much more difficult than admitting you might need glasses. Why are we okay with wearing eyeglasses, but not hearing aids when both of these medical devices do such a good job of enhancing our quality of life?
If you or your spouse is a candidate for hearing aids or a cochlear implant, it’s likely the instrument will benefit communication at home, work and in your social life. In one study, almost 70 percent of participants said their relationships had improved since wearing a hearing aid.
Communication isn’t the only thing that improves when hearing loss is treated – overall health does, too. That’s because untreated hearing loss can be an indicator of other problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Signs you or your partner may have hearing loss
One of the most common types of hearing loss is presbycusis, an age-related decline in hearing that usually happens gradually. For this reason, it’s often difficult for you – or your spouse – to realize you’re not hearing as well as you used to. Here are a few signs that it’s time to get your hearing checked:
- Other people always sound like they’re mumbling and you often ask them to repeat what they’ve just said,
- Your spouse asks you to turn the volume down on the television or car radio,
- You don’t like talking on the telephone anymore because it’s too hard to understand the conversation,
- You find it so difficult to follow the conversation at parties or when interacting with groups of people that you avoid those situations.
Tips for communicating with your partner about your hearing loss
Naturally, the best tip we can give you about improving communication with your partner if you have hearing loss is to get a thorough evaluation from a hearing healthcare professional. They can start you on the path to better hearing health. In the meantime, use these techniques to stay connected to the ones you love.
- Do your best to face people when you’re speaking to them. It’s easier to see their expressions and read their lips when you’re standing face to face.
- Whenever possible, reduce background noise. Turn down the television or radio or move to quieter room when having a discussion. If your plans include eating out, try to choose a quiet restaurant or ask to be seated in an area conducive to conversation.
- Ask for what you need. If your grandson has a habit of covering his mouth when he speaks, don’t be afraid to ask him to keep his hands away from his face and to speak slowly when he’s talking to you.
- Don’t give up. If you miss a few words of the conversation, stick with it. If you don’t get the gist of what’s being discussed, ask for clarification when the person has finished speaking.
- Above all, stay positive. Try to have a sense of humor when things don’t go as planned. The main thing is to stay involved and not withdraw from daily interaction with those you love.
This year, instead of a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, give each other the gift of better hearing by making an appointment to see a hearing healthcare professional. It may not seem like the most romantic thing to do, but in the long run, it may be the sweetest way to say "I love you."