How to talk to your spouse about hearing loss
No matter how healthy you are, one thing you can count on is developing some degree of hearing loss as you age. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69 with those between the ages of 60-69 having the greatest amount. And it’s a sneaky condition. One day you’re enjoying the sound of crickets on a warm summer night, and the next, you can’t remember the last time you heard one chirp.
Many of the hearing care professionals we talk to tell us family members are often responsible for bringing in many of their patients for their first hearing test. Since it’s not always by choice, these individuals are often reluctant to move forward with a treatment plan even when their hearing evaluation indicates they have hearing loss.
So how do you convince your spouse or partner to make hearing health a priority -- for their sake as well as yours? And if the shoe is on the other foot, how should you respond if your partner says you need to have your hearing tested?
If your partner isn’t hearing well
Living with someone who can’t hear can be frustrating, especially when they are unaware of the problem. If they constantly ask you to repeat yourself, turn up the volume on the television to an uncomfortable level, or have trouble hearing the telephone, microwave or doorbell chime, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart chat. Pick a quiet time when the two of you are in a good mood and you can talk uninterrupted. Use a firm, caring tone that is not judgemental or condescending.
- Tell them you’re concerned for their health. When hearing loss is left untreated, the speech and language areas of the brain can atrophy, increasing an individual’s risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as depression, frustration and anxiety.
- Tell them you’re concerned for your own health. Elevated noise levels (from the television, for example) can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) over time; the additional stress of worrying about your other half's health and safety can take a physical and emotional toll on your own health.
- Make an appointment to have your own hearing tested and ask them to go with you. First of all, it’s something you should do anyway. Secondly, it’s always good to have another set of ears to hear what the hearing care provider has to say, no matter who the patient is. Who knows? The hearing evaluation process is so simple and easy, they might just agree to have their own test.
- Do the research. You know your partner better than anyone, how will he or she push back? No time for an appointment for an evaluation? Not old enough to wear hearing aids? Devices not worth the trouble and money? Anticipate the objections and use the Healthy Hearing website to research solutions so you’ll be ready if your loved one objects.
If your partner says you aren’t hearing well
Hearing loss is a equal opportunity offender, so it’s not inconceivable your spouse may gently suggest you have your hearing evaluated one day. If he or she does...
- Be receptive -- and try not to be offended. With 48 million Americans reporting some degree of hearing loss, you’re in good company. Besides, for all the reasons we just stated, you aren’t the only one who is suffering here.
- Educate yourself about hearing loss. There are many different types of hearing loss and reasons why you should treat it. Visit the Healthy Hearing website to learn more or talk to your family doctor.
- Agree to have your hearing tested. Only a qualified hearing healthcare professional can determine whether or not you have hearing loss. Fortunately, hearing tests are easy and painless. Some hearing centers even offer free evaluations with no obligation to purchase anything.
- If you have hearing loss, accept the diagnosis and seek treatment as soon as possible. Of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, the NIDCD estimates more than 28.8 million of them would benefit from wearing hearing aids. Today’s hearing devices aren’t anything like the ones your parents wore -- technology has come a long way in the past ten years. Your hearing healthcare professional can help you find a treatment solution that fits your lifestyle as well as your pocketbook.
Regardless of who is on the receiving end of this serious health conversation, try to also have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh together can help diffuse the situation and put both of you at ease.
Take the next step
Even if both of you are still hearing well, it’s a good idea to make a habit of having an annual hearing evaluation. Much like the other medical professionals you see each year -- family, eye and skin -- your hearing healthcare professional will compare each evaluation with the previous one and address problems as they arise. To find a hearing healthcare professional you can trust, search our online directory. Taking care of your hearing and your health doesn't just benefit you - it is one of the most loving things you can do for the people closest to you.